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!



How to Move an Atheist/Agnostic to Study the Bible

A home that is actively sharing Jesus with others is a faith-filled home that is attractive to teenage children. Evangelism is a fruit of a healthy Christian.

Hence the following post:

I recently heard this helpful conversation flow which comes from Becky Pippert author of the classic book on evangelism, Out of the Saltshaker. I think it might be helpful for all of us

Atheist: I don’t believe in God. I’m an atheist.
Christian: Well isn’t that kind of crazy to say that you have searched exhaustively high and low and proven there is no God? Don’t you mean you are an agnostic? In other words, you dont really know if there is a God or not.

Atheist: Yeah, I guess you are right. I am really an agnostic.
Christian: Well are you an open-minded agnostic or close-minded agnostic?

Atheist: What do you mean?
Christian: A close-minded agnostic has no interest in discovering if what he or she believes is right or wrong. An open-minded agnostic is willing to investigate the evidence.

Atheist: What evidence are you talking about?
Christian: Have you ever looked at the primary source documents of Christianity? To really understand Christianity you need to go back to the ancient documents.

Atheist: What are those?
Christian: We are studying those at my house. We will be looking at the ancient biography of Jesus – the letter written by John.

Consider how this conversation flow might equip you to move an “atheist” to consider studying the Bible.


How Can I Pray For You?


In Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied, I talk about how asking good questions is a way to a deeper conversation.

Don Whitney recommends a question I have also used a number of times. Ask the Lord to help you use it in the next few days.

Over and over I’ve seen one simple question open people’s hearts to hear the gospel. Until I asked this question, they showed no interest in spiritual matters. But then after six words—only seventeen letters in English—I’ve seen people suddenly begin to weep and their resistance fall. The question is, “How can I pray for you?”

This may not seem like such a powerful question to you. Perhaps that’s because you hear it, or a question like it, quite often. Your Bible study group or your church prayer meeting asks for prayer requests every week. You may even see requests for prayer solicited each Sunday morning in the worship bulletin.

But realize that most people in the world never hear such a question. And while many churchgoers know that a minister is willing to pray for them, in some traditions they’re expected to make a special donation to the church for such services. So when you ask, “How can I pray for you?” and it’s obvious that you’re asking out of love alone, it can touch a person more deeply than you imagine.

Will you pray for the opportunity to ask that question? The Lord will open a door for you to!

While here, don’t forget to check out Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied to help you talk about Jesus.


Evangelistic Questions for Your Christmas Gatherings

The Christmas season gives us all sorts of opportunities to interact with those who don’t know Christ.

There are Christmas parties for fellow workers. And holiday gatherings with distant relatives. But often we don’t know how to bring up the topic of Christ or spiritual things. And we are afraid of saying the wrong thing.images-1

That’s the whole purpose of Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied.

But today’s post is a Throw Back Thursday Post to point out Twelve Evangelistic Questions that can open a conversation to spiritual things. Think of these questions as tools in your toolbox.

Of particular benefit around Christmas one might be, “Have you ever thought much about Christmas? Who do you think Jesus is?” 

After they tell you that ask your diagnostic questions like – “Why do you think that? Have you ever thought about what happens if you are wrong?” or “Well have you ever looked at all the ancient prophesies he fulfilled? How do you think he did that if he was just a man.”

Let’s all pray for open doors this season.

Here’s the article.

Evangelism, Holidays|

A Mission to Reach Out:555

Tony Merida of Imago Dei Church has presented the 555 mission to his church.

In short, he is challenging his church find 5 people in 5 networks

1. Your Family Network – Your extended family
2. Your Vocational Network – The people you work with
3. Your Business Network – Where you shop
4. Your Neighbor Network – Those who live close to you
5. Your Relational Network – Other nonChristian friends you have through things like recreation

And with those people in mind start aiming toward these five tasks.

1. Pray for them.
2. Serve them.
3. Give Gospel literature to them.
4. Invite them to church or an outreach event.
5. Speak the gospel to them.

He quotes Tim Keller
“There must be an atmosphere of expectation that every member will always have 2-4 people in the incubator, a force-field in which people are being prayed for, given literature, brought to church and other events.”

This ties right in with Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied and passing the gospel along. An outward focused family rejoices in the gospel.

Will you take up the challenge?


Provoking Your Coworkers (In a Good Way)

J.D. Greear provides 26 great ways to provoke our coworkers.

Not to provoke them to anger but to provoke a question about why we live differently a la 1 Peter 3:15 – Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

He has a number of ways to shine at work including:
– Not gossiping but speaking with thanksgiving.
– Make a prayer list for the people in your office and their families. When appropriate ask, “How can I pray for you.”
– Take the dirty jobs like cleaning the coffee pot.
– Speak about your church involvement over the weekend without mumbling.
– Keep copies of apologetics books in your office. Give copies away.

Check out the whole article here.
Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied My experience has been in the Northeast that, yes we must live differently. But very rarely will someone ask us this question.

That’s where the principles of Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied comes in. You can gently and assertively bring up the gospel questions when God opens a door.

Are we a witness at work? It will spill over to our homelife when we are excited about the gospel and report on a gospel conversation.

How can you pray to humbly stand out at work as a Christian?


The Art of Spiritual Conversations

Mary Schaller argues in this article that Christians need to learn the art of spiritual conversations with those who do not profess to be Christians.

Several paragraphs are helpful (and sound like they came right out of Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied!)

The key is to figure out how to empower Christians to engage in meaningful conversations about God with those who believe differently. This is not something we leave to the “professionals,” but rather something anyone can do on any day of the week. Everyone can have conversations, so let’s start there. If our conversations can build trust and prove that we care, then relationships grow, and disciples are made over time. We should strive to create spaces for safe and open spiritual conversations that pave the way for people to discover God for themselves at their own pace.

When we approach people with the intent to tell them what we know, yet don’t really try to understand where they’re coming from, they will put up defenses. When we demonstrate that we are truly seeking to understand people and not change their point of view, we create a safe environment for them to open up at a deeper level. As they feel genuinely understood, they also begin to better understand themselves. In a society full of people who would rather talk than listen, people are starved for someone who is willing to move into their life as a listener and learner. It communicates love. Eventually, they become more open to what we have to say, if we’ve listened well to them.

The “Q” in Q Place stands for “Questions,” because we recognize the value of cultivating a place where it feels safe to discuss the big questions of life. The starting point is with open-ended questions that are motivated by authentic interest in another person’s life. They open up conversation and create a dynamic learning environment. And the path to a good question is using our God- given curiosity. It all starts with curiosity … otherwise questions will feel loaded, formulaic or insincere.

It is “holy” curiosity, both because the curiosity is God-given, and because the questions are Spirit-led and sensitive to the need of the moment. Holy curiosity invites interaction, leads to greater connection and transparency, and opens the door to new opportunities.

Perhaps a little less assertive that I wish but still good words! Just like Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied. Should I send her a copy? Or you? Read the whole thing.


A Great Evangelistic Question to Start a Conversation

If you have read Evangelism for the Tongue-Tied, you know that I advocate a question that works all the time.

What are your spiritual beliefs?

But I may have a new favorite. Or at least, a close second. In this article, the author suggests  a powerful ice-breaking question is:

What do you think happens when we die?

I like it a lot and his article breaks down the two types of responses he gets. Then you can keep asking more questions. I plan to put this question in my arsenal and ask it to one particular person that I have struggled to bring up the gospel with.

Read the whole article. And then pray that God will give you a chance to ask this question.



Questions to Go Deeper with Our Children or Seekers

People collect many things: stamps, cars, tree ornaments. I like to collect questions. Whenever I find good questions I try and write them down so that I can use them in the appropriate situation.

I came across and old article in Leadership Magazine by Judson Poling in which he argues for answering questions of a seeker (or at least the initial question) with a question. That second question can reveal what is hidden and often what motivates the question. Often what we need to do is get to the heart of the questioner before we give an answer.

These questions below will help the person you are talking with think more deeply.  I think several of these are excellent questions for conversing with our older children as well.

1. “That’s an interesting question. What do you think?”
2. “What situation in your life makes you wonder about that?”
3. “Even though you don’t know, if you had to guess, how would you answer?”
4. “What information do you think would cause you to change your mind?”
5. “What is the strongest argument for those who disagree with you?”
6. “If you found out you were wrong, how would your life change?”

And for the question about Jesus being the only way, Poling suggests this question:
7. “If I were to tell you he did claim to be the only way, would you rule out the possibility that it is true? Why won’t you even consider the possibility?”

Filling a Bucket and Lighting it on Fire

A recent article is entitled Evangelize Don’t Indoctrinate. In it, the author helpfully distinguishes between the need to preach for conversion of the soul and mere indoctrination. However, I think the post goes a little too far on some areas.  I believe the author creates a false dichotomy. My response is an excerpt of my booklet, The Power of the Word.

The Right Goal – Wise Unto Salvation

But exactly why are we to teach our children the Scriptures? Many children have grown up in a graceless home, knowing the Scriptures and chafing under the way their pastors and parents handled them. Lois and Eunice, on the other hand, had taught Timothy their Scriptures, our Old Testament, so well that when presented with the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, Timothy trusted Christ as Savior. Amazingly, the Pharisees, had looked at those same Old Testament Scriptures and felt justified in putting Jesus to death.

Let this be a warning to us. It is not just knowledge of the Scriptures. But it is knowledge with a goal, to know Jesus Christ. Let’s spell out some of these goals more specifically.

1. To Know the Scriptures so as to Know Jesus Christ. Jesus said the Scriptures were about him (Luke 24:44, John 5:46). As we study the Scriptures ourselves and as we teach them to our children, our goal is not just more knowledge. Our goal is to proclaim Christ, teaching and admonishing so that we can present our children to him (Colossians 1:29). As we are learning the Scriptures, we want our children to know, love, and obey Jesus Christ and his gospel even better. That means that we know and can clearly articulate the gospel and grace-filled, gospel living.

2. Filling a Bucket: A Body of Material. William Yeats is famously quoted as saying, “Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.” But Yeats creates a false dichotomy. True biblical instruction is both filling a bucket and lighting that bucket on fire.

The Scriptures refer to the material Timothy has been taught as a deposit (1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 1:14). Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their ignorance (Matthew 22:29). To know the God of the Bible is to know certain truths about him that he himself has revealed. Children do not know these truths about God. They must be taught them. In the Scriptures, children are held up as positive models of trust and negative models of ignorance (1 Corinthians 14:20). J.C. Ryle is helpful here.

You cannot make your children love the Bible, I allow. None but the Holy Ghost can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make your children acquainted with the Bible; and be sure they cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well.

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear views of religion. He that his well-grounded in it will not generally be found a waverer, and carried about by every wind of new doctrine.[i]

3. Lighting a Fire: A Love for the Word. Just as important as putting knowledge in the bucket is lighting it on fire. Let us fill the bucket with gasoline and light it on fire. As a pastor, I have seen too many adults who have grown up in Christian homes who have no real hunger for the word. Why should they have a hunger for it? They “know” it already.

Instead, I want to pass on to my children an example of a continual hunger for the word. I want them to see in me and to develop in themselves a learning posture that searches the Scriptures to know Jesus Christ better.

4. A Sense of Listening to a Speaking God. Too many young people grow up without a sense of God speaking to them. Yet the reason we go to Scriptures is so that God will reveal himself to us. Like Samuel of old, God reveals himself to us through his Word (1 Samuel 3:21).

Too many Christian young people are bored with the Bible. They know (or think they know) all the Bible stories. But what they don’t know is how to hear God. They don’t know how to come to the Scriptures with a problem or with a hint at what God wants to say to them and then to start digging. They don’t know how to take every thought they encounter captive to the word of God. They don’t know how to study a topical subject in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is teaching them. Could this be why Bible reading seems so flat? Could it be because we start with, “You should read your Bible.” rather than, “What do you think God’s Spirit wants to teach you?” As George Mueller has said, “I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.”

In short, we always want to evangelize and teach to obey (Matt 28:19-20).  That teaching is aimed primarily at the heart. Head knowledge is vital. But without heart knowledge is damnable.

[i] Ryle, The Duties of Parents,