Miscellaneous

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What the Complex Emotions of Jack Harbaugh Can Teach Us

Jack Harbaugh has two sons playing against each other tonight: John and Jim. So father will watch his sons battle it out. At the end, one son will be a winner. The other son will have Super Bowl loser on his resume.

But what will be going on in the heart of Jack Harbaugh during the game? Cheering for one son while agonizing for the other? And what about afterward in the locker room when one is jubilant? And the other is deathly quiet?

I think this analogy can begin to help me understand the complex emotions of God. The following paragraph from John Piper helps my small mind grasp the deep things of God and keeps me from overemphasizing one emotion of God without thinking of the other.  I pray this paragraph would help you the same way that it has helped me.

God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  For example, who can comprehend that the Lord hears in one moment of time the prayers of 10 million Christians around the world, and sympathizes with each one personally and individually as a caring Father (as Hebrews 4:15 says), even though among those 10 million prayers some are broken-hearted and some are bursting with joy?  How can God weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice when they are both coming to him at the same time–in fact are always coming to him with no break at all?  Or who can comprehend that God is angry at the sin of the world every day (Psalm 7:11), and yet every day, every moment, he is rejoicing with tremendous joy because somewhere in the world a sinner is repenting (Luke 15:7, 10, 23)?  Who can comprehend that God continually burns with hot anger at the rebellion of  the wicked and grieves over the unholy speech of his people (Ephesians 4:29-30), yet takes pleasure in them daily (Psalm 149:4), and ceaselessly makes merry over penitent prodigals who come home?  Who of us could dare say what complex of emotions is not possible for God?  All we have to go on here is what he has chosen to tell us in the Bible.  And what he has told us is that there is a sense in which he does not experience pleasure in the judgment of the wicked, and there is a sense in which he does. (The Pleasures of God, p.66)

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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.

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 don’t think it will produce those results, I don’t 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!

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.

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How We Handled Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy

 

We are past this stage in our parenting but I thought it might be interesting to post how we handled Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

This issue is not at the heart of the gospel (Romans 14:4, 17). I was brought up on Santa until age six. That Christmas Eve night we were driving home from my grandmother’s house. As I looked out at all the homes in my city, I just knew that there was no way Santa could visit every house in the world in one night. And I am following the Lord today.

However, anytime we talk to our children about someone who knows if we are sleeping or awake (omniscience) and who knows if we’ve been good or bad and expect us to be good, then we ought to think beyond the surface.

In addition, there is the subtle danger of learning about two invisible people – Jesus and Santa. When you find out later one is not real then……   As the caption on the poster reads, “Children one day you will learn everything about Santa Claus. On that day, remember everything that the adults have told you about Jesus.”

 

 

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With that in mind, our hard and fast rule was we will never ever lie to our children (or anyone else). Never. When I tell them the truth about things they cannot see, I do not want them to have any doubts about the truthfulness of their Dad or Mom. I want them to have complete trust in our integrity.

So how did our family handle Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy?

1. We never took our children to talk with Santa (or the EB). No Christmas cards in his lap.

2. We never brought Santa up in conversation. If the children brought it up, then we would talk about it.

3. We used passive language. “Christmas is coming. There will be presents under the tree.” “Put your tooth under your pillow and there will be some money there the next morning.” There was something a little more fun with the passive voice. We didn’t say Santa will bring presents. We didn’t say we will bring presents. We said, “There will be some presents.” Mysterious. Teasing.

4. Because we used passive language, by the time they asked who these dressed up men were, they could also handle the trust of the truth. “Some children believe that Santa brings their presents. We don’t want to spoil Christmas for them. This is our secret.”

5. When asked by another adult or child what they hoped Santa would bring, we told them simply to reply with what they wanted for Christmas. They still had some times when they had the deer-in-the-headlights look. We just repeated the question, “Honey, tell Mrs. Smith what you want for Christmas.”

6. We resolved not to be Christmas haters. As a family we enjoyed The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Elf, The Polar Express. We had great fun with the secular aspects of the holiday.

7. We wanted the focus to remain on Jesus, even as we added a little fun to life with presents or chocolate eggs.

These principles served our family well and we still had great fun.

In fact, on a couple of nights the “tooth fairy” slipped in his duties. The tooth was still under the pillow the next morning. So one of my daughters wrote a note to remind the “tooth fairy.” With a twinkle in her eye, she handed the note to me and said, “Dad, could you give this note to the tooth fairy? She forgot to come by last night.” And she quickly turned to walk away with a knowing smile.

Christmas time is here. Let’s honor the Savior in it.

 

Want your children to follow Christ as adults? tap_dmp_cover_final

Purchase The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Love Jesus Christ to learn more about discipling your children.

Around the Web

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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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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