“Few things show the corruption of human nature more clearly, than man’s inability to understand zeal in religion. Zeal about money, or science, or war, or commerce, or business, is intelligible to the world. But zeal about religion is too often reckoned foolishness, fanaticism, and the sign of a weak mind. If a man injures his health by study, or excessive attention to business, no fault is found: — “He is a diligent man.” — But if he wears himself out with preaching, or spends his whole time in doing good to souls, the cry is raised, “He is an enthusiast and righteous over-much.”” — J.C. Ryle
I continue to be amazed at how bad we are at determining what will make us happy.
It seems that people are moving through life looking for happiness, making choices that they think will make them happy, only to find them further and further away from being happy. It is really quite sad and disheartening! In search of happiness, we are not very happy.
Just the other evening, I was reminded of this yet again while reading with my sons. We are currently re-reading The Dangerous Journey (The kids version of Pilgrims Progress). One of the early encounters on Christian’s journey is Mr. Worldly Wiseman. At the time of their meeting each other, Christian is still with his burden and has already spoken with Evangelist having been pointed toward Jesus. So at his encounter with Mr. Worldy Wiseman, Christian is on his way to the Gate.
As his name would suggest, Mr. Worldly Wiseman tries to convince Christian that Evangelist is wrong and is simply trying to lead Christian down a road of worthless religion. In his appeal to Christian, Mr. Worldly Wiseman says:
“Hear me – I am older than you – and I’ll give you some advice. In yonder village there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality; a very judicious man – a man of very good name. He has skill to help men off with their burdens. He has, to my knowledge, cured several who were going out of their wits because of them. His house is not a mile from this place, and if he’s not home himself, his son – who’s called Civility – will help you. Moreover, if you wish, there are houses standing empty in the village at reasonable rates. The food is cheap and good, and you can send for your wife and family, and all live happily together.“
We were reading through this section of the story, and when we came to that part JJ spoke out – “Not Happily!”
I stopped reading. My three sons and I then discussed JJ’s comment in light of Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s message.
There are many voices out there telling us where and how to find happiness. May we be sure to know that apart from Jesus there is no true happiness. And therefore, any voice attempting to convince us to “live happily together” without Jesus should be answered with a certain response –“Not Happily!”
Have you ever forgotten something of importance? Have you ever missed an appointment? Or forgotten to do a much needed task? Have you ever been oblivious to something you have neglected only to find yourself later saying , “I completely forgot about that.”
There are some things in life that we continually need to be reminded about! No matter how well we may know an idea or truth, we still do occasionally forget. We need reminders.
I was reminded of this need recently while teaching the mid-week Men’s & Women’s Bible studies at our church.
In Titus 3:1-2 Paul writes:
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
Paul tells Titus to be sure to remind the church of these things. Really? These are not big doctrinal issues. These are not truths which we cannot afford to compromise. No, they are not. But they are characteristics of a true godly attitude. And if there is anything that needs a reminder, it is our attitudes.
Many church people have known and affirmed what the Bible teaches for years – since they were children. And they need no reminder of ‘who Jesus is?’ or of ‘what the Bible is?’ or of ‘how we can be forgiven of our sins?’ But what we all need to be reminded of is our attitudes! Honestly, some times my attitude is really bad. Sometimes my attitude stinks! This is not good nor right. Often we focus so heavily on good works being our witness to the world. We regularly remind ourselves that we are the salt and light of the world. Yet we fail to remember that our attitude is our witness too! A grumpy church person is a bad witness. A judgmental Christian is a bad witness. A rude follower of Christ is a bad witness. Our attitude means a lot!
Paul, the great theologian, apostle, missionary is right! We need to be reminded of these things!
With all our zeal to represent Christ, may not forget that our attitudes represent Jesus too!
Being a dad is my favorite thing in the world! I have been trying to state clearly how much I love being the father to my children, and I truly cannot find the words to express how much I love having my kids in my life.
With that said, parenting is so hard.
Loving them a whole lot is one thing. Leading them and training them is another. And it is not easy.
I am still very happy to be a parent. I don’t have all the answers. Honestly, I don’t have very many answers. I make so many mistakes as a dad. And I know my kids, as well as our family, have their/our issues.
However, I still love them so much. And I desire to be the best parent I can be.
Here are 4 thoughts on parenting:
We’re Together in This
Valeria and I are united in parenting. We are not the same person. We each come from different families, homes and upbringings. But we are committed to being focused together in parenting. We both love our kids. We both have the same desires for our kids. And we both have each other’s back in regards to leading our kids. We support each other in parenting. And we never want our kids to see us not united. We are a team. We are together in this parenting! If the parents are not united in the way they lead their kids, then there is no way to know which direction the kids are going.
Its a Top Priority
Life is quite demanding, and it is very easy to find ourselves giving too much time, energy and life to things that are not a top priority. Valeria and I are committed to making parenting a top priority to us. It is not just a part of our life. It is our life. It is not a part of what we do. It is what we do. We do not want anything to get in the way of us spending lots of quality time as a family. There is not a decision we make where we do not consider how this affects our family. “What will happen to my relationship with my kids?” is a question that I ask myself often as I plan my days and weeks.
Also, when something is a top priority then that should mean that you also examine it. Valeria and I are often looking back to evaluate how focused and committed we are to our family, our children and our home. If the parents don’t value parenting as a top priority, then the kids will not value their parents instruction.
Discipline is just a part of the Relationship
We discipline our kids. Consistent discipline works well. But disciplining our children is never the main part of our relationship. Our relationships in our home are very involved. We spend lots of time together. We eat dinner together. All 7 of us sit at the dinner table together to have dinner. We talk a lot. We laugh a lot. We pray a lot. We play a lot. We are together a lot. So when it comes time to discipline a child, it is not coming out of nowhere. It is not coming as the only interaction of late. It is not coming as the only communication of late. Discipline is just a part of the relationship. For every serious corrective talk, there have been countless conversations about so many other things. Deep talks, funny talks, teaching talks, serious talks, silly talks all happen daily. Regularly and often. So when the time comes to discipline, it makes sense. For every case of physical discipline, there have been countless interactions on so many other levels. High-fives, hugs, play-wrestling, throwing ball, taking a walk, reading a book together, and so on and so on. All of these things happen daily. Regularly and often. Discipline is not the main thing in our family. It is just a part of the relationship. If the parents don’t have good strong loving relationships with their kids, then the kids will not understand the discipline or lack thereof.
God’s Word informs our Parenting
God says a lot in His word about parenting, and Valeria and I are committed to following God’s word. In fact, those first 3 thoughts are all found in Scripture. Unquestionably, my strong desire to be a good dad and love my kids comes from God’s Word. His Word informs our parenting. God is our best example. He is the best Father. He is our father in heaven. We look to Him to see what He says about parenting. And we look to Him to see what kind of a parent He is. His love for His children is deep. We want to love our kids in that way. If the parents will not learn from God about how to parent, then the kids will not learn from God.
So to recap: 1) We’re together in this! 2) It is a top priority 3) Discipline is just a part of the relationship and 4) God’s Word informs our Parenting.
As usual, the Apostle Paul begins his letter to Titus by introducing himself. In this book, he gives himself two titles/labels: “A slave of God” and “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Lets not overlook the significance of those two. They are both strong and honorable. However, in many ways they are opposite extremes. “A slave of God” is describing yourself in the lowest of ways. It is admitting that your life is for nothing other than the glory of God. It is a sign of humility because all followers of Jesus are slaves of God. And while Paul is one of the few select apostles, he still firstly introduces himself as God’s slave. “An Apostle of Jesus Christ” is describing yourself in the highest of ways. In the New Testament, there is no title higher than that of an apostle. In the history of the world, there have only ever been 14 true apostles. At the time Paul is writing Titus, He is most likely the last one living. Again, Paul was probably the only Apostle of Jesus left. That is a huge title. So Paul has introduced himself in his letter to Titus in a fascinating way – two very different yet very impressive titles – “Slave of God” and “Apostle of Jesus Christ.”
I recently began re-reading The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. It is outstanding! Here is a very strong, insightful & inspiring quote about the strength of Christians. I pray that God would make us like this:
“The strength of Christians is the honor of the church. When they are inflamed with the love of God, and live by a lively working faith, and set light by the profits and honors of the world, and love one another with a pure heart fervently, and can bear and heartily forgive a wrong, and suffer joyfully for the cause of Christ, and study to do good, and walk inoffensively and harmlessly in the world, are ready to be servants to all men for their good, becoming all things to all men in order to win them to Christ, and yet abstaining from the appearance of evil, and seasoning all their actions with a sweet mixture of prudence, humility, zeal and heavenly mindedness – oh, what an honor are such to their profession! What an ornament to the church; and how serviceable to God and man!”
Everyone needs a good friend. I hope this post will help you recognize good friendship – both in others and in yourself.
One of the keys to having good friends is being a good friend. So, I want to share with you 3 Characteristics of a Good Friend.
(Before you start examining whether or not you have anyone like this in your life, I think it best to ask yourself if you possess these characteristics. In other words, does anyone have you as this type of friend toward them?)
I recently preached a sermon at our church FBC Fairdale on the book of Philemon. The book is a letter written by Paul to his dear friend Philemon, and these 3 characteristics help outline the story of the letter. You can listen to my sermon on Philemon and friendship here.
Three Characteristics of a Good Friend
- REFRESHING – Good friends are refreshing! Simply put, a good friend is someone who makes you a better person. In verse 7 of Philemon Paul says to his friend “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon brought joy and comfort to Paul and other people. This was refreshing. A good friend does not bring you down. A good friend is a joy to be around. A good friend is someone whom you were glad you spent some time with. When was the last time you said ‘Now that was refreshing!”
I recently when out of town to visit some friends. After having dinner and breakfast with two friends I had not seen in years, I was so refreshed. As I was driving home from that trip, I found myself thinking ‘I love those guys. It is so refreshing to spend time with them.” In verse 20, Paul directly asks Philemon to ‘refresh my heart.” Now thats a good friend – someone you can go to to be refreshed!
We need more refreshing people in our lives. Let me ask, is there anyone out there who has you a refreshing friend?
- USEFUL – Good friends are useful! Simply put, a good friend is someone who helps you. A good friend is someone who is good to you. In verse 11 of Philemon Paul is telling his friend of a new common friend of theirs “who is now indeed useful to you and to me.” Paul saw this new friend, Onesimus, as useful and beneficial. When was the last time you said ‘I am so thankful for so & so. I don’t know what I would do without them.” That is a good and useful friend! Back over Christmas break I became quite sick with a stomach bug. And one of my dear friends went out of his way to bring me some cans of chicken noodle soup and some bottles of Gatorade. That is a good friend. He helped me. He is useful to me. Let me ask, is there anyone out there who has you as a useful friend?
- CONFIDENCE – Good friends give you confidence! Simply put, a good friend is someone you can count on. Not just count on to help you (that was my 2nd point). But count on to be faithful. In verse 21 of Philemon Paul tells his friend “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” Paul had confidence in his friendship with Onesimus. When was the last time you were needing a friend to come through with something and they did? Just think about how much worry and anxiety would be eliminated if you had confidence that your friend would handle drama and gossip the right way. We need more friendships that give us confidence! Let me ask, is there anyone out there who has confidence in you as a dear friend to them?
As I said earlier, everyone needs a good friend. I think better said- everyone needs to be a good friend. And I think these 3 characteristics will help you be a better friend.
Finally, in the book of Philemon the key to any of those 3 guys (Paul, Philemon & Onesimus) being a good friend was their faith in Christ. Christ so humbles a man that his desire then is to do good to others. A true Christian should be a good friend!
Happy New Year!
2016 is a new year and with a new year comes expectation. We are expecting God to use us for His glory this year. And while that is our prayer and heart’s desire, we must humbly admit that we do not know how God will do it. We do not know what this year will bring. James teaches us “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?” (James 4:14) And if we do not know about tomorrow, then we surely do not know about the upcoming year.
Not only do we not know what this year will be like for us, we do not know much at all about what this year will be like in regards to anything or anyone. There is always a bit of uncertainty about the future.
This thought has me thinking about what could happen in 2016. The Carolina Panthers could win the Super Bowl. I could lose some weight and try to get in shape. Valeria and I could have another baby. The church could get upset with me and fire me. Only some of the church could get upset with me and then start some drama and split the church. God could bless our church so much this year that we see many lives changed. We could see people believing and repenting. Many saved. Families restored. Lots of baptisms. God may very well do that! Or, I could die. It could happen. Honestly, any of that could happen. It may not, but it could. We have to trust God. Only He knows!
But you know what else could happen in 2016?
Jesus could come back!!!
He really could. I hope he does! So many people have not even considered that possibility. He really could come back this year. Do you remember how he ended His word? In Revelation 22:20 He says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
So while we do not know what will happen in 2016, we can be prepared for the possibilities. And if our Lord does return, may He find us ready and waiting for him.
The Shepherd analogy is nothing new to most people. The Old Testament prophets use the analogy. Jesus used the analogy. Peter used the analogy. In fact, in First Peter, Peter called Jesus the “Chief Shepherd” while instructing the church elders to “Shepherd the flock of God.” The Shepherd is the leader of the sheep. That is true and good.
But there is one aspect of Shepherding that is often forgotten.The Shepherd is to lead, teach and protect the sheep at all cost. The Bible teaches that the Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
In the most familiar “Shepherd” passage in the New Testament, John 10, Jesus says this four times. The entire passage is only 18 verses, and Jesus says the Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep four different times. Remarkable!
In John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
In John 10:15 “…and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
In John 10:17 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life …”
In John 10:18 “No one takes it from me, But I lay it down of my own accord.”
People are eager to refer to the Shepherd analogy in leadership contexts and conversations. The aspect that is not discussed as often is the laying down of one’s life for the sheep.
Laying down your life for the sheep is true shepherding. Shepherding without laying down one’s life is not true shepherding. This is why in John 10:12-13 Jesus said “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
Caring for the sheep; Being wholly committed to the sheep; Laying down one’s life for the sheep is the only kind of true Shepherding. Jesus knows no other kind. Jesus does not recognize a Shepherd who leaves the sheep.
This is what King David meant in Psalm 23 when he said “The Lord is my Shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” David believes that his Shepherd (the Lord) will protect him at all costs.
Shepherding is a good analogy. May we continue to use it. But lets not forget the best part = The laying down of one’s life for the sake of the sheep!
“that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son…”
I must admit that I have rarely, if ever, thought about my grandchildren. For clarity, I do not have any grandkids. And I do not know if I ever will have any. I feel like I just became a father, and I have yet to figure out how to parent well. And besides that, I am having a hard enough time with being 35 years old and dealing with these new gray hairs.
But the other day I was reading again that family-focused-super-rich passage in Deuteronomy 6. I am in awe of the heart, diligence and focus God has for parents in verse 7 of chapter 6: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Every time I read that passage, my heart is stirred to love and lead my kids well. Again, my kids.
But as I was preparing to lead our parenting community group for church, I was struck by verse 2: “that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son…” Wow! That stopped me! God is thinking about my grandchildren! God is teaching me to think about my grandchildren. God is saying that who I am now will impact my grandchildren. God is saying that how I teach and lead my son will impact my grandson. God is saying that how I teach and lead my son will influence how my son teaches and leads his son, my grandson.
Incredible! That hit me hard. As I learn the word of God and by faith obey it, I am growing in my love and fear of my Lord & Savior. And that in turn will carry over into my parenting and therefore my son’s life and faith. And that in turn will carry over into my son’s parenting and therefore my grandson’s life and faith.
God is mindful of my grandkids! And now I am too. May God be gracious to us and our family. For my sake, my sons’ sakes, and my grandsons’ sakes! To God be the glory!