Miscellaneous

/Miscellaneous
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Kids Opting Out of Social Media – I’m sure you know of this trend but it still interesting to see an article on it. Our children are narrowcasting not broadcasting. Make sure you are talking with them.

With Him – Jesus’ Discipleship Method.  This has huge implications for parents. Are you “with him?” Are you bringing your children “with you?”

Ask Questions Like Jesus – One author says that Jesus was asked 183 questions but asked 307. Questions are powerful teaching tools. This article looks at different types of questions and will help you in your communication.

10 Questions to Diagnose Your Smartphone Usage – I found these enlightening and helpful.

5 Ways Christianity is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist – I don’t take Barna too seriously. Nevertheless, he usually is on to something. This survey merely quantifies what those in the Northwest and Northeast already know. There are implications for how we disciple our children.

Puritan Activities to Encourage Spiritual Growth

At this time of year, it is appropriate to remember our spiritual (and perhaps physical) forefathers.  New England’s first white settlers were those who separated from the worldy Church of England (Separatists).  These “Pilgrims” landed in 1620.  Another group tried to purify the worldy Church of England (Puritans).  But a mere ten years later, the colony was infused with a great migration of Puritans who had finally given up on the Church of England.  Two thousand Puritans emigrated in 1630 alone.  Both of these groups brought with them a rich emphasis on the daily walk of the believer. We can do well to imitate them.  The following notes are from Christian History Magazine, Issue 41,

The Puritans sought a living relationship with Jesus Christ through public worship and private “devotions.”  Private devotions took place in secret exercises, private conferences, family devotions, and private meetings.

“Secret” or “closet” exercises. Alone, the Puritans meditated and prayed just before sleep at night, upon rising in the morning and on Saturday in preparation for Sunday.  At night they would review their day’s behavior, repent of sin, and give thanks for the blessings. In addition, there were special sessions of self-examination on a birthday, New Year’s day or some remarkable act of Providence.

Private conference.  Believers were specifically instructed to seek out “much conference, especially with Ministers and other experienced Christians.”  These conferences were designed to solve problems and strengthen individuals and families in grace.

Family devotions.  The Puritans rightly viewed the family as a “little church,” so family devotions were essential.  “Families are the nurseries for church and commonwealth; ruin families and ruin all.”  This third private exercise ideally occurred in the morning before work, before meals and in the evening.  The Bible was read chapter by chapter, a psalm was sung and prayers (using a devotional) were offered up.

Neighborhood prayer meeting.  Congregations formed groups for women, young men, girls, tradesmen, and ministers.  Meetings were held in homes weekly or biweekly.  “We pray, and sing, and repeat sermons, and confer together about the things of God,” explained John Eliot, a founding pastor and missionary to the Indians.

In addition to these exercises, the Puritans were known to keep track of their spiritual state and experiences through journals.  New Englanders were also highly literate and considered reading a means of grace.  Religious publications – sermons, tracts, catechisms, and devotional manuals–were best sellers.

What strikes me almost 400 years later is how little has changed.  While technology has changed our physical life, the means of nourishing our spiritual life remain the same.  What this article does so well is specify those means so clearly.  Make use of these means of building up your own soul and the soul of those around you that were used by the founders of our country.

 

Around the Web

worldLinks to Equip You
4 Questions to Ask Children – I like a couple of these open-ended questions that allow for an ongoing conversation with young children. Try them.

Five Questions Better than How Was Your Day – As long as we are on questions, here is another collection of excellent questions.

Mariana Trench Named Worst Place to Raise a Child – This satirical article hit it right on the nose. All these articles name the “best” places to raise a child. But the best place is in the center of God’s will for your family.

Children in the OT – I appreciated this professor’s perspective on children and the implications for us.

9 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler without Using a Smartphone – C’mon parents. Don’t be lazy! Be creative!

Using Proverbs 31 and a Credit Score – Fun little read about the background of Proverbs 31. And also how a credit score is a predictor of relationship success and ability to keep commitments.

Quick Guide to the 10 Planned Parenthood Videos – Helpful summary of this horrific story.

Apologetics Links
Were Early Christian Scribes Untrained Amateurs? – Dr. Kruger shows us ‘No.”

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Around the Web

world12 Things Every First Time Father Should Know – I enjoyed his list and came up with a few more. What would you add?

A Pastor’s Greatest Regret – If you are a pastor, are you caring for your family? If not a pastor, are you helping him care for his family? I have written about this here and here.

What to Do When They Stray – Whether or not you agree with this gentlemen’s theology, you will find his four suggestions practical.

America is More Post Christian – Barna tells us what we already know. Let’s train our children to live in this world.

My Own Personal Bollywood – I like this understanding of how movies can lead to unrealistic views of things. Helpful for talking to those influenced by the storyline in movies.

23 Passionate Appeals from a Father to a Son – David Murray walks through Proverbs.

Thoughts on the Sabbath – I sent this to my young adult children. Helpful for young parents too. The phrase “rejuvenation in God” really stood out to me and I think is at the heart of the Sabbath.

Apologetics 
Gary Habermas’ Paper on the Historical Evidence of Jesus – This comes up time and time again. Know that the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus existed and the gospels are reliable history.
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Tim Hawkins and Atheist Children’s Song

It’s blizzard season here in New England and we are about to go crazy. Record breaking snow. We all need a laugh. Enjoy.

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Top Posts of 2014

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With the end of the year here, we look back on our top posts from 2014.

1. Ways My Church Cared for My Kids – You can click through to an article published by The Gospel Coalition that received over 5000 Facebook likes in 3 days and 25,000 unique impressions in a month. Obviously, this is an important issue that resonated with others.

2. How Pastors Can Care for their Children – A follow-up post to the first one. The Gospel Coalition published it and it too struck a cord.

3. She’s Not Perfect but She’s Perfect for Me – Another popular article on TGC, encouraging spouses to believe in God’s providence.

4. Unsolicited Dating Advice for Young Men – CBMW published this article in October and it quickly gained over 400 likes.

5. Gordon College and the New McCarthyism – The controversy with Gordon College and my take on it received a little attention.

6. Seven Ways to Read More Books This Year – Advice on how to read more paper books. I followed most of these for 2014 and plan to do so for 2015.

7.  John Piper on the Forbearance, Cow-Pies and Marriage – This article pointed to an obscure article where John Piper helps us work through forbearing in our marriage.

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Do You Feel the Sacrifice of the Incarnation?

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I dont know about you but I cannot grasp that grace.

Several years ago, I came across a story in National Geographic (June 2003) that has stayed with me. In it, I begin to feel the incarnation in a minuscule way. Perhaps it will affect you too.

It is a story about people like Dinesh Parmar. One of 10,000 Bhangis in Ahmadabad, Parmar earns money by manually cleaning latrines, sewers, and gutters and by removing dead animals from the streets. He is a Bhangi, a member of the Untouchable caste.

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In India there are 5 castes- levels of grouping. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groups, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth came the Brahmans-the priests and teachers.  From the arms came the Ksahtriyas-the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas-the merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras–laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking order. A fifth group describes the people who areachuta. The primordial being does not claim them.

The lowest caste is called the untouchables. They do all the dirty work that no else wants to do. Deal with dead bodies. Much of the manual labor. Within each caste there are subcastes. Within the untouchable caste the lowest subcaste is called a Bhangi.

Let me describe a days work for Parmar. He removes the manhole cover. Cockroaches scurried from the darkness as the stench below filled the street. Parmar hesitated for only an instant, then dropped into the hole- with no gloves, no gas mask. His body hidden inside, he methodically lifted bucket after bucket of excrement over his head.

Off to the next job – He led the way to a nearby lane. He climbed into several more manholes to scoop out clots of filth and sludge.

My Reaction

Do you recoil at that story and that picture?  I do. Do you love this man enough to leave your country, your wealth, your rights as a US Citizen, your future opportunities,  to enter his world? To become a Bhangi, to earn money in this way, to so humble yourself and humiliate yourself? To save a few? Oh by the way, the majority aren’t going to appreciate the sacrifice you have made. They are going to reject you and kill you.

I can’t. The gap is too wide. The sacrifice is too much. But Jesus did this and more.

Jesus loved us so much that he humbled himself, and came and entered our world of filth and stench. He became the lowest of the low.

That is the grace of Jesus. This is the sacrifice of the Incarnation.

 

Asking Life Questions Around the Holidays

The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. Proverbs 20:5.

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with our family.  One of the ways we can encourage our children to grow wise is to ask questions when they are in the presence of older and wiser people. Just a few questions can draw wisdom from a humble, self-effacing saint. Our American culture values the young and disparages the old. The church is not immune to this blindspot.

But what questions to ask? I recently stumbled upon a pdf that has a number of good questions to ask. I highly recommend you take a look at this pdf. Pick out one or two questions and use it around the holidays or the next time you have someone into your house.

One problem. That list can seem pretty overwhelming. Here are a few that I pulled out and a few I added myself.

For the younger ones to ask older generations:images-1

1. What is one of your first, most vivid memories?
2. What was the house/apartment and neighborhood like where you grew up?
3. What were your favorite toys?
4. What big world events/inventions do you remember growing up?
5. When you grew up, did you have any family traditions associated with Christmas?
6. (If appropriate), how did you come to know Christ personally?
7. (If appropriate), how did you meet your spouse?
8. What do you like best about your spouse?
9. What do you wish you knew when you were my age?
10. What has been one thing God has taught you recently?

You could ask them one or more around the table. Or you could print down a few questions and make it a family scavenger hunt.

During this week, you will probably be interacting with family members you have not seen in a while. And the conversation will border on the shallow. How can you seize this intergenerational teaching moment and also deepen the conversations?

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.

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Jesus Came to Testify to the Truth

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.””You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:36-37

Why did Jesus come into this world?  One reason was to speak the truth.

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We live in a world ignorant about God, ignorant about righteousness and sin, ignorant about successful living. Jesus came into this world to speak truth. His kingdom is established, not by arms, but by truth.

In our verse listed above he speaks, seemingly in vain, to Pilate. Was it in vain?

Pilate’s reaction did not matter. Jesus was commended for making the good confession to Pilate. (1 Timothy 6:13). What mattered is that Jesus was a faithful witness. In fact, that is a name of Jesus – the faithful witness(Revelation 1:5 ). To be a faithful witness you just have to speak the truth. You don’t need to worry about the reaction.

Matthew Henry said, “He rules in the minds of men by the power of truth…The foundation and power, the spirit and genius, of Christ’s kingdom is truth, divine truth. …He conquers by the convincing evidence of truth; he rules by the commanding power of truth.”

But not only was Jesus born to testify to the truth, so were you. The nature of the kingdom of God is such that it conquers – not by guns – but by truth. Truth needs a voice; truth needs a tongue. God wants to use you to speak truth.

But how many times do I hold back because I don’t think it will make a difference. How many conversations have I not had, letters to the editor not written because I don’t think it will make a difference. Because I dont think it will produce those results, I dont speak. But there is power in the truth. And the nature of my calling is to be a faithful witness, to make the good confession no matter what the results. If we have spoken the truth we have been successful

God wants to use you to give voice to the truth. And the focus must be on faithfulness. As we faithfully give voice to the truth, like a sword coming out of our mouth (Revelation 1:6), truth conquerers. So let us know, be filled with, and speak the truth.

 

Want to know more answers so that you and your young person can testify to the truth? Check out 7 Questions Everyone Should Answer. These CDs will equip you to speak truth to those around you!