Leadership

Leaving Jerusalem

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If you are still with me in the Bible Challenge, we are in the midst of the gripping tale of David’s life. From a shepherd boy to a King on the run, we have read all of his well-known tales. We have read of him killing a giant, committing adultery and then murdering the woman’s husband, and we have read of the heart-breaking treachery of his son, Absalom.

It was hard to pick what to write about today. But there was one obscure passage in 2 Samuel that really stood out to me. Especially in our current situation as believers.

So I am writing today about Ittai the Gittite.

Have you ever even heard of him? This is not really that memorable of a story, as “larger than life” stories go. Let me set up the background–

Absalom, over the course of a few years, undermined his father’s authority and got enough men on his side to attempt to overthrow the King. Instead of fighting his own son, David makes the decision to just abdicate in order to protect the people of Jerusalem. He pulls all of his house together, with the exception of 10 concubines left to care for the palace. Along with him, showing their loyalty and serving as his body guards and corps d’elite were the Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites.*

As they walked out of the city, David stopped Ittai, the leader of the Gittites, telling him to go back into the city. Here is the conversation between the two (from 2 Samuel 15)–

Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” 

Whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.

What an incredible testimony of loyalty. Ittai chose to follow David out of the safe zone, knowing full well that it would most likely mean hardship, wandering, and even death.

This struck me, because in a lot of ways, I feel like we are soon going to be forced to follow Jesus out of American culture very soon. Oh, we may not be forced to physically leave, but the storm clouds we saw on the horizon only a few short years ago are now starting to bring fierce wind and dark, dark skies. Life is changing here. And the message is Get on Board or Be Persecuted.

Gone forever are the days of the beautiful religious freedom we enjoyed from the inception of this country. They are over. You do realize that, don’t you? They aren’t returning, no matter who is voted into office. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but this ship has left the dock and it’s not coming back. Not without a supernatural miracle from God (My God is that big, so I don’t rule it out, but I don’t expect it either– not when I read the plan of the future as recorded in the Word of God).

I think it is time to follow our King out of Jerusalem. It’s such a heart-breaking time for those of us, the remnant, that remains faithful to the Word of God, isn’t it? We have become such a minority that sometimes we find ourselves wondering if we are even right, after all? But then we turn back to the Word and we read of church history, and we can see that this is exactly what we should expect. We Christians have really, here in America, been living a rare, cushy, comfortable existence. This has not been the norm for most of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout history, in foreign lands currently, or as recorded for the church’s future.

So are you ready to follow your King, whether it bring life or death? Are you ready for hardship, persecution, and wandering? Are you ready for slander, scathing remarks, intolerance for your views, and false accusations? Because if you have plans to remain faithful to the Jesus of the Bible, it will come. Some of you have experienced a bit of this already.

Are you going to be like Ittai– a loyal soldier for the King or are you going to tuck tale and run back into the comfort zone of the city? You will soon have to make a choice. Are you prepared?

Read and study the Bible, read biographies of great Christians who have gone before us, read classic authors of yesteryear. If you need ideas, check out my favorite books-where I have added a couple of new suggestions for you just this morning.

By reading and studying you will grow deeper, fixed roots of faith. These will hold you steady in the wind that is starting to blow. There is no time to waste. The perilous storm is almost here.

 

*As explained from the following websites: Jewish Encyclopedia and Bible Hub.

Will Mark Driscoll Say Thank You Someday?

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The removal of Mark Driscoll from Acts29 has been swirling about in Christian circles for a few days now. First, I have to admit that I do not have inside information regarding this celebrity pastor. I really don’t know if the accusations are true or not. I was never a big Mark Driscoll fan and my interest in his ministry disappeared completely when he started challenging long-held beliefs on some of the most basic understanding of scriptural passages –or did he just choose to ignore them? I don’t really know his motives, his thoughts, or his heart. Obviously.

But this incident has really turned my thoughts toward the modern day expectations of pastors. We–the average church goer– feed into this new church model. The model that is driven by the goal to grow bigger and better and ever more cool.

Instead of focusing on shepherding his flock (as scripture commands), the pastor becomes obsessed with making sure more and more people come to his church. If he is one of the “fortunate” ones that has the charisma to attract a crowd, he now fights a battle that is a temptation to all people, but perhaps most tempting to charismatic leaders — and that is the battle of pride.

Pride worms its way into all of our lives in one way or another (even discouraged cries of “Woe is me!” and “I deserve better than this!” stem from pride), but pastors seem to be most vulnerable of all.

This is probably for a number of different reasons —

1. People naturally follow them.

2. People naturally praise and lift them up.

3. Satan would like nothing better than to destroy a church and what better way than attacking the leader?

 

So back to Mark Driscoll. If what is swirling about is true and Mark Driscoll has fallen prey to this temptation to be arrogant and dictatorial, could it be that this may end up being a very positive event in his life?

Acts29 did him a huge favor! One that should happen much more often in the church today. They said to him, “We care more about you than we care about our reputation or even your reputation. We care more about what God’s Word says in how to handle this, than we do about what is ‘politically’ correct.”

I applaud Acts29 for taking a stand. I am sure many sleepless nights and much heartache went into their decision. If Mark Driscoll is as smart as I think he is, he will use this as a wake-up call to return to the humility and servant’s heart that is required of all of us as believers– no matter what earthly position we find ourselves in.

This could well be the best thing that has ever happened to him. Painful for him and his family and his church — by all means. Sin usually is. But if he humbles himself and turns to scripture, I imagine that one day in the future he will say a very heartfelt “Thank You” to his friends at Acts29.

And one more thing– if you are blessed with a humble pastor who loves God and His Word more than he loves himself, who cares deeply for his flock and desires to shepherd them, who turns the hearts of his people to the Word of God and expounds faithfully each week (instead of telling stories and entertaining), why don’t you take a moment to say thank you? You are so blessed.

 

Alone in the Store

The actual rainbow I saw as I came out of the store
The actual rainbow I saw as I came out of the store

The sky grew darker and darker. Billows of black clouds rolled above my head. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t raining yet. I nervously drove towards the grocery store, wishing I had just stayed home. (I am pretty sure that the tornado that ripped through the development just down the road almost ten years ago is still affecting my nerves when the sky grows dark!) But I was almost there already, so I wasn’t going back home now.

The leaden sky and heaviness in the air made it very clear that the storm was approaching quickly and I saw people scurrying around as I got out of my car. I asked myself again: What exactly am I doing out in this?

I grabbed a cart and decided that I was probably going to need to wait this out in the store. I really wanted to be at home, but I wasn’t and so I decided I just needed to make the best of it.

Just as I went inside and made my way to the produce aisle, I heard the deluge begin on the roof above me. The fact that the wind and rain could be heard so loudly inside a building with hardly any windows was actually a little scary. But I continued to shop.

The store at this time was abuzz with activity. Lots of people traveling hurriedly among the aisles and cashiers busily checking out customers. But about ten minutes later, I realized something. I was the only customer. Well, maybe not the only one, but I didn’t see another one as I traveled the aisles and the store had grown deadly silent aside from a few excited store employees moving about as they discussed a leak in the back of the store.

What was I missing?

Why had everyone gone out in the pouring rain instead of waiting it out in the store? I have to confess that about that time I started wondering if there was a tornado warning or something that I should know about. I called my daughter and texted my husband. All was okay at home. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I started imagining the shelves caving in on me when the dreaded tornado blew through (it’s one of the downfalls of being a writer–this vivid imagination!) My eyes started searching the store — where would I be the safest? And then I just laughed at myself. There certainly wasn’t much I could do about it, so I just kept shopping, taking my good old time, because I certainly wasn’t going to venture outside in such weather. (A few days later I found out that there was indeed a tornado warning!)

About the time I was ready to check-out, I heard one of the cashiers exclaim to her co-worker, “It looks like the sun is out!” And then, “there’s a rainbow!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and checked out as hurriedly as I could. I had spent enough time in the grocery store for one day!

As I pushed my cart outside, there was indeed a rainbow, vivid in its colors, along with a fainter, second rainbow just above it. It was beautiful!

I can’t help but relate this experience to how I feel as a biblical Christian in the current culture. The storm is upon us and with each new heresy, tons of Christians are jumping ship–

There’s no hell? Yes, I like that idea. And there goes several thousand.

You can be gay and be a Christian, too? Yes, that satisfies my flesh and my thinking just fine. And there goes several thousand more.

Christianity is based more on my experience and how I feel than on what God’s Word says? Oh that feels real good. And off go a great big bunch.

God didn’t create the world in seven literal days? Well, whatever the secular scientists say must be right. And we lose many more.

You only have to say a prayer asking Jesus into your heart and then can continue to live however you want? Heaven and my flesh, too? Perfect. And there goes several hundred thousand.

Until those of us who are adhering and obeying God’s Word in its totality feel completely and utterly alone in the “store” wondering if we are missing something? Of course, many who are jumping ship were never believers in the first place, but what puzzles most of us is why fellow believers are venturing out into such a relentless and severe storm of demoralizing confusion? Is there something we don’t know?

I think what we do know is that, in the end, many will be deceived. Many will lose their love for truth and instead want their ears tickled with pleasing fancies and fables (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 24:24).

But I am committed to “staying in the store” no matter what weather blows outside because I am safest there (Psalm 91:1-3). Would you consider staying here with me? Let’s be the ones that stick together until the end — loving God more than we love ourselves, desiring to please, obey, and glorify Him alone.

There is still a precious remnant who wants to honor the Lord and obey His whole Word. There are still some of us who are sticking to the traditional faith, where whole-hearted repentance of sin, faith in Christ alone for salvation, and a transformed life because of this faith are the defining signs of a genuine believer. There are still a few of us who adhere to the Bible as the literal and inerrant Word of God. We are not alone. Let’s weather the storm together, knowing that when it’s over our reward will be far greater than a beautiful rainbow (James 1:12; I Corinthians 2:9; Romans 8:18).

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Sham Compassion

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One of the biggest concerns I have regarding modern missions is the focus on the physical needs of man without care for the soul. 

Mark 8:36 says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” This is in the context of gaining material wealth, but I believe it can also be applied to our mission philosophy. 

I know this is an unpopular stance to take, but Mark 8:36 makes it clear: all of the clean water, used clothing, and healthy food in the world isn’t going to make a difference eternally.  All of the educated masses, peace projects, and new buildings are not going to save a soul. Unless they are accomplished alongside sharing the truth about God and His way of salvation. For what do we accomplish enduringly if we don’t share the gospel? It is my opinion that all Christian mission agencies should have sharing the gospel as their primary purpose.

I have been so disappointed to see many “Christian” mission agencies relegating what should be their main purpose to fourth or fifth on their list or, for some, to not even making evangelism a part of their purpose, choosing instead to encourage the false religion that is already embraced in the foreign country for the sake of diversity and unity. I recently read a pamphlet by a Christian mission agency that actually put it something like this– “We exist to provide clean water, education, and care for {the people} and we teach them about God’s love, too.” Not exact words, but close. 

My thought was that this is a rather new occurrence in our modern day messed-up church. But, alas, Catherine Booth was running into this same problem in the 1800’s as she and her husband started the Salvation Army. This short excerpt is from her book Popular Christianity. She goes on to expound on the different errors that we make in our human take on missions and it is an excellent piece, but much too long to offer here. And so I will share her introduction and her last paragraph. Both of which are full of wisdom when it comes to this topic of missions, whether they be at home or on foreign soil. Let’s keep first things first!

Here is the excerpt–

Benevolence has come somewhat into fashion of late. It has become the correct things to do the slums, since the Prince of Wales did them; and this general idea of caring in some way or degree for the poor and wretched has extended itself even into the region of creeds, so that we have now many schemes for the salvation of mankind without a real Saviour.

Do not misunderstand me. I have no objection—nay, I rejoice in any real good being done for anybody, much more for the poor and suffering—I have no objection that a large society of intelligent Christians should take up so noble an object as that of caring for stray dogs, providing it does not interfere with caring for stray babies! I desire not to find fault with what is good, but to point out the evil which, to my mind, so largely diminishes the satisfaction one would otherwise feel in much benevolent effort being put forth around us. As I said at the beginning, the most precious stone given instead of bread is useless to a starving man.

Surely nobody ever cared for poor suffering humanity so much as Jesus Christ. He gladly put forth His mighty power for the healing and feeding of the body, and He laid it down most distinctly that all who were true to Him must love the poor and give up their all for them in the same practical way in which He did; but all this real brotherhood did not prevent His keeping the great truths of salvation ever to the front, and applying them as relentlessly to the poor as to the rich, and vice versâ.

But now in the name of Christ we are asked to believe either that the truest way to carry out His intentions is to ignore men’s souls and care only for their bodies, or else to join with this sort of material salvation some theory that will practically get rid of all serious soul-need.

And she closes with this final statement–
Let no benevolent projects, no magnificent phrases deceive you. The good done to mankind by the poor fisherman who spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, has surpassed all the achievements of modern philanthropy as far as the noon-day sun surpasses the rushlight.

If you want to elevate the masses, go and ask HIM how to do it, and if the answer comes, “Take up thy cross and follow Me,” OBEY.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Stand and Be Counted

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Have you ever heard this quote–

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” ?

This is generally attributed to JFK but no one really quite knows for sure. But whoever said it was right. It is not good enough to avoid evil. We also need to stand for what is right. It is really the heart of what this passage is talking about. If we are godly then we will want to be counted on the Lord’s side and stand with those who are proclaiming God’s Truth. I found this excerpt full of good food for thought–

Most of us will never run for political office, but each of us can use our influence to endorse someone who is stepping out and  representing our concerns. We can put bumper stickers on our cars, display campaign signs in our yards, attend fundraising events, and help man the call center for our candidate.

In a similar manner, you may not be the point man for a righteous concern among your Christian friends or in your church because someone else has already spoken out against wrongdoing, but you can publicly endorse the person who is taking the right position. Unfortunately, when a pastor who is doing right gets resistance from church members, the only ones who speak up are those opposing him. They are quite ready to “plant yard signs” and volunteer to work “call centers” to get people on their side.

Godly believers will join with the roommate, the youth director, the student leader, the professor, or the parent who is taking the right position and will encourage him in his right cause. They will not let the opposition have the only voice. What a tragedy that those who agree with a righteous position remain silent! God’s people need to support righteousness whenever they see it and encourage the people who are sticking their necks out for what is right.

Paul told Titus to groom and deploy into church leadership men who would “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers…they must be silenced…therefore, rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:9-11, 13 ESV)

If no one else is speaking up, you may have to the be the David and be the first to oppose what is wrong. If someone already has, join him. Don’t let a David enter the battle against the Philistines alone. The godly man knows where God has drawn the line in the sand and gets on God’s side of the line.

From p. 109, Essential Virtues, Marks of the Christ-Centered Life by Jim Berg

 

On Finding a Wolf

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Over the past year I have become aware of a few wolves in the modern day church. They are surprising wolves, quite honestly, and by all accounts, play the part of a sheep quite well–almost perfectly. In one case, I was appalled to read a review of a popular book that basically redefines Christianity. The man who wrote it is a popular evangelical preacher. And I was equally appalled to attend a conference where I heard a live presentation by a very popular Christian author who so effectively weaved together true doctrine with heresy that it was almost impossible to define between the two. I am not going to go into who they are here, as my purpose for blogging is not to take a controversial stand against certain persons. However, there are a few things we need to be looking for when we choose to listen to or read the books of another person (no matter how famous). So here are a few criteria that can be used to spot a wolf–

1.  Wolves use buzz words like “social justice” and “rights of the poor” on a frequent basis. The term “social justice” is never found in scripture but is found in books written by Karl Marx. In other words, it is a communist term, not a biblical one. From a biblical standpoint we are to extend mercy and help, but it’s not about “social justice”.  Now, let me be clear, I am not saying that all people who use this term are wolves. It has become such a popular term that it may be used quite innocently. But when I hear this word, my ears perk up and I make sure to investigate further. Along that same line, Wolves try to make us feel guilty for any material blessings we enjoy. There is a big push for communism in this country and the church has jumped on board, adding a spiritual twist to it. Wolves give the message that if we have something that someone else doesn’t have we are materialistic and selfish. But this is not a biblical point of view. While we are called to be good stewards of our money, there is no sin in being wealthy. The sin comes in when our treasure, hope, and joy is found in our wealth. The sin comes when we use our wealth only for our own good and satisfaction, giving no thought whatsoever to the poor and needy (Matthew 6:20, Proverbs 13:22, Genesis 13:2, I Timothy 6:7-10).

2.  Wolves focus on love and tolerance alone. However, tolerance has been re-defined to mean that anyone can do anything they want and it’s okay. (Of course, there is no tolerance for those who believe scripture teaches living a holy life. They categorically define that as legalism.) There is very little, if any, talk about sin and moral justice. There is almost no mention of righteous living. If you never leave church feeling convicted of sin in your life, it may just be led by a wolf.  They do not preach about sin, because sin is not important to their religion. It is all about love. But I ask you–doesn’t that leave a gigantic hole in the gospel? If there is no sin, there is no gospel (Romans 6:23).

3.  Experience always trumps biblical doctrine. And so wolves teach that the foundation of spiritual religion is personal experiences and feelings, rather than the Word of God. This was has reached its tentacles into even the most conservative churches. Someone once asked my husband when he was in church leadership how he can argue against someone’s experience. But I ask you– doesn’t it seem like the lion who is seeking to devour us (I Peter 5:8) and the angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14-15) could offer counterfeit experiences?

4.  Wolves tell us that any confrontation is equal to judgment. They will quote Matthew 7:1 emphatically, conveniently ignoring verses like Matthew 7:16 and James 2:26. Church discipline and confronting a sinning church member are almost unheard of anymore. Wolves teach that confrontation is the opposite of love. But the Bible teaches us otherwise. Check Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1, and 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

5.  Wolves conveniently forget about the scriptures that have to do with worldliness and holiness — or they re-define them to mean something different than they have meant for the last 2000 years.  All tradition is thrown to the wind, so that they can satisfy worldly desires or grow mega-churches and gain popularity (or both). Of course, not all mega-churches are bad and don’t confuse traditions with traditional interpretation of scripture–they are two very different things. If your pastor is discarding traditional interpretations of scripture faster than you can blink, you may want to make sure that he’s not a wolf. If your pastor is using worldly entertainment such as ungodly movies and songs to promote scriptural principles or is more like a stand-up comedian than an expositor of God’s Word, you may want to run. Wolves change their churches to appeal to the world instead of making an effort to be separate from it (I John 2:15).

6.  Wolves also conveniently forget that Christians are going to be hated in this world and the road to heaven is narrow (Matthew 7:14, Matthew 10:22). They proclaim the salvation of thousands because of a prayer whispered at an alter, even if no transformation or any life change has ever taken place.  They tell us that we can expect the praise and honor of the world. They teach us to join with the world to solve big problems. But Jesus said in John 15:19 that the world will hate us because we are not of it.

7.  Wolves encourage new age spiritualism, giving them new names that sound biblical. Contemplative prayer, breath prayers, divine mystery, centering prayer, inner light, labyrinth, and spiritual formation are all terms that find their origins in far eastern religions. This is a very serious infiltration in the church today, moving people towards one world religion. It it so important that we be well read and aware of what’s going on, so that we will not be fooled.  Be very, very wary and keep your eyes open (I John 4:1, I Timothy 4:1, Jude 1:4).

8. Wolves are not very careful with their associations. They partner with known false teachers in the Christian religion and these days we even find some of them partnering with teachers of all religions. Be very careful of a teacher who has condoned, partnered with, or quotes any speaker or author who has clearly turned away from the Gospel and biblical doctrine. I could give a zillion examples of this (i.e. Focus on the Family, along with many others, promoting The Shack and Francis Chan promoting Mike Bickle) and we should find this most disturbing (Romans 16:17-18).

Now, in presenting this list, I want to make it very clear that I do not believe that all pastors and teachers promoting one or two of these seven things is a wolf. Some very sincere pastors and teachers have been deceived. If you believe that your pastor or spiritual leader has been deceived, make it a matter of prayer and then talk to them about it.

But what I am saying is that  you might want to investigate because they could be one.  We need to stop relying on fallible men for our spiritual growth. While they can be used to help us to grow, God’s Word needs to be our compass, so that we can spot a false teacher. We need to love the Truth. We need to study the scriptures and we need to study with  humility, integrity, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to mold our lives to the lessons held within its pages. We need to be careful not to manipulate the Bible to say what we want it to say.

The other thing we have to do is to be very careful not to allow the pendulum to swing the other way so that we shy away from helping the poor and loving our neighbor. The Bible clearly teaches that we are to do both. The gospel is about justice and love.

Let us be ready and willing to fight the wolves that have surreptitiously made their way in among the true church flock (John 10:11-14). Let us step outside of status quo and stand up and be a light in this very dark church age!

 

 

Wise Counsel for A Son

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I came across this the other day. It was written by hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt, who lived from 1607-1676. I found it on the Hope Blog (you can find the original post here). I believe the counsel given here is incredibly wise and timeless– beneficial for both our sons and our daughters, and perhaps even for ourselves. Hope you enjoy this–

Now that I have reached the 70th year of my life and also have the joyful hope that my dear, holy God will soon rescue me out of this world and lead me into a better life than I have had until now on earth, I thank Him especially for all His kindness and faithfulness which, from my mother’s womb until the present hour, He has shown me in body and soul and in all that He has given me. Besides this, I ask Him from the bottom of my heart that when my hour comes He would grant me a happy departure, take my soul into His fatherly hands, and give my body a peaceful rest in the ground until the dear Last Day, when I, with all of my [family] who have been before me and also may remain after me, will reawake and behold my dear Lord Jesus Christ face to face, in whom I have believed but have not yet seen. To my only son whom I am leaving behind I leave few earthly goods, but with them I leave him an honorable name of which he will not have to be ashamed.

My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God as His possession, that he is to become a servant and preacher of His holy Word. He is to remain now in this and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.

Study holy theology in pure schools and at unfalsified universities and beware of the syncretists [those who mix religions or confessions], for they seek what is temporal and are faithful to neither God nor men. In your common life do not follow evil company but rather the will and command of your God. Especially: (1) Do nothing evil in the hope that it will remain secret, for nothing is spun so small that it is not seen in the light of day. (2) Outside of your office and vocation do not become angry. If you notice that anger has heated you up, remain still and speak not so much as a word until you have first prayed the Ten Commandments and the Christian Creed silently. (3) Be ashamed of the lusts of the flesh, and when you one day come to the years in which you can marry, then marry with God and with the good advice of pious, faithful, and sensible people. (4) Do good to people even if they have nothing with which to repay you, for the Creator of heaven and earth has long since repaid what humans cannot repay: when He created you, when He gave you His beloved Son, and when He accepted you in Holy Baptism as His child and heir. (5) Flee from greed as from hell. Be satisfied with what you have earned with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not all too much. But if the good Lord gives you something more, ask Him to preserve you from the burdensome misuse of temporal goods.

In summary: Pray diligently, study something honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain unmoved in your faith and confessing. If you do this, you too will one day die and depart from this world willingly, joyfully, and blessedly. Amen.

Source: Christian Bunners, Paul Gerhardt: Weg Werk Wirkung (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 301-302. Translated by Benjamin T. G. Mayes, 5/4/2007

A Call to Fathers

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When a father provides for a child’s material needs, he is considered a decent father.

When that same father provides sound teaching in the ways of the world, such as how to handle money, hold down a job, and control one’s temper, he is considered a great father.

But when a father provides godly counsel using scripture, along with heartfelt prayers to God for the souls of his children (and, later, grandchildren)–is there even a word to describe that?

It reminds of those credit card commercials that always show the price tags of items and vacations and then, at the very end, show a memorable moment followed by the word “Priceless”.

You cannot put a price on a father who cares about the spiritual welfare of his children.

I was reminded of this when I received a phone call from my father yesterday. He knows that I am bearing a burden that is feeling pretty heavy. He called to let me know he loves me and to encourage me. He then went on to give me some wise counsel from scripture, first making sure that I wanted this counsel (yes, please!)

His words encouraged me to look at the situation from a little different perspective. He helped me to see what is perhaps the root of the problem. But, most importantly, he let me know that he is praying for me and the parties involved and that he and Mom are available for me, should I need them in any way.

Can I express to you the feelings of comfort and blessing that this call provided to even a grown daughter with almost-grown kids of her own? To know that my father cares deeply about me and my family and is pointing us to God and His Word is a great encouragement and a balm to my soul.

I can’t speak from the perspective of being a father because I am not one. I can only speak from the perspective of being a daughter. But I have a few questions for you fathers–

Do you have conversations about the stuff that matters with your kids?

Do you pray regularly for your children and their walks with God, asking Him to guide and protect them?

Do you know the principles of God’s Word, so that you can provide your kids with godly counsel?

You see, it isn’t enough to make sure your kids have enough to eat and a roof over their heads. And it isn’t enough to play ball and board games and even dolls. These things are good things and it is a part of being a good father.

But many, many kids’ hearts get lost even with good fathers because Dad never provided the spiritual component so desperately needed in the family.

And so kids grow up and instead of a godly role model to turn to as they go through difficult times, they have a nice guy whom they love and respect but would never turn to for their big questions and tough problems.

May I suggest that perhaps the primary reason we are losing our kids’ souls is because of this?

“But I wouldn’t even know where to begin?” you may think.

Start when they are young. I would like to give you an example from the life of my husband to encourage you. From the time the kids were very small he was the one who had bedtime devotions with them. He would come home late and so very tired from his quest of starting a new business, but would make time for the spiritual well-being of his children. It showed our children that mommy wasn’t the only one who cared about their relationship with God. The kids had lots of good and helpful conversations in those bedtime hours with their father. Another great way to make this happen is over the dinner hour (be sure to have one–don’t let sports and other activities steal it away!) We spent many hours with our kids discussing our own problems and the problems of the world, always using God’s Word as our guide. Kids need to hear and participate in conversations like this with their dads.

And if your kids are grown (or almost grown), then might I suggest that you open up the door for good conversations by becoming vulnerable? Your kids want to know–need to know–that you have struggled, too. That you don’t have it all together. They need to hear of how God has been faithful to you through the years. They need to see you growing more like Christ. They need to know you on a personal level. This is scary, I know, but it is the only way to set the stage, so that when they are facing a spiritual battle or personal problem, they know you will be open to talk with them and probably have something worthy to say.

I think this is the only post I have ever written specifically for men. I know I can’t understand all you are going through.You have burdens we women can’t even imagine. Work stresses, the burden of caring for the physical needs of your family, and forever trying to meet your wife’s expectations. I know it is not easy. But amidst all that’s going on, I hope that you will consider my words.

I know that you love your child. But do you want to make the life of your child the best it can be? Then be a dad who knows the Word of God and be available to give them wise, godly counsel that comes from a heart filled with deep and caring love.

For very few things matter more than the souls of your children.

 

The “Good” Lady

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We sat there chatting. She was telling me about her job at the local casino. She asked me if I ever go there? I paused for only a moment and then said, “No, I don’t gamble.” She continued on to tell me that it is not necessary to enjoy gambling to go there. The casino has a live band each weekend and of course, there is a bar there. I hesitantly informed her that I don’t drink or dance, so that probably wouldn’t be a good fit for me. She laughed and said, “Oh, so you’re a good lady.”

I almost laughed outright. Me? Good? No, not so much.

And right there and then, God gave me the opportunity to share what He has done in my life. I told her that I am a sinner just like anybody else, but that He has saved me and that it is my honor and duty to please Him with my activities. (I am not sure it was quite that concisely or smoothly, as my heart was beating fiercely as I spoke!)

She changed the subject.

I thanked the Lord for the chance to perhaps plant a seed.

But it got me thinking about how there is this thought among a lot of people that if you do certain things you are “good” and if you do other things you are “bad”.

Let’s be honest, we are all sinners. It is about our heart and the motive behind our actions. Sin comes in many ways besides the most obvious. We can have sins that occur only in our minds– selfish, angry thoughts; envious, jealous thoughts; hateful, bitter thoughts. No one sees, but we are still sinning. We can have the most awesome accomplishments in the world, done out of purely selfish motives, and we are still sinning.

And so, I hope as you read blogs and best sellers, you don’t idolize the author. And as you listen to preachers or radio broadcasts that you don’t idolize the speaker. They are a human sinner, just as we all are. Our goal should be to be like Jesus. And the only way to truly understand Jesus is to read and know God’s Word. Only then we will truly get that Jesus was the perfect example of balancing Truth and love, that Jesus predicted we would be hated by the world, and that Jesus encouraged us to love God and others above self. He taught us to live sacrificial lives and to put God’s Will as our primary priority. And this is just scratching the surface. There is so much in the Bible that shows us how to be Christlike in our attitudes and our behavior.

It is important that we don’t idolize human beings. Oh, it’s good to find mentors and godly men and women to respect. But don’t make them your ultimate model, so that if they fail, you are crushed and all trust in God is destroyed. That is never healthy.

Jesus is our ultimate model–the Jesus of the Bible. The world and even the modern-day church has created a “Jesus” to meet their own selfish, worldly desires. Let’s know the Jesus of the Bible, so that we can grow a little bit more like Him each day!

 

Trust is a Powerful Thing

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Have you ever thought about just how powerful trust is? If we trust someone, we will —

1. Want to be like them.

2. Believe what they tell us about others.

3. Believe what they tell us about the world.

For example, think about someone you really trust and admire. If they told you something about someone, would you believe them?  I had the “privilege” of hearing two sides of a personal confrontation a few months ago. Each side had their own personal interpretation on what had happened and were influencing people’s opinions of the other person by the tale they were telling to the people who trust them.

Or let’s think about our kids for a moment. We have such power to influence positively or negatively because of trust. If, as Christian parents, we love them enough to set boundaries, have the hard discussions, and live out our faith, we will build the trust that will make it so much easier for our children to follow the Lord. But if we are self-absorbed hypocrites, well, then there is little trust and our kids will probably walk away from the Lord.

How about pastors and teachers that we trust? If they tell us the entire world was created from a rock, we will give them credence, because we trust them to tell us the truth. Or perhaps they interpret a certain passage of scripture differently then we have ever heard– if we trust them, we will believe them. Or political leaders? If they tell us they will put more money in our pockets by lowering taxes, then we will…well, I guess that’s not such a good example, is it? Not a whole lot of trust when it comes to the government anymore.

My point is this: the more that others trust us, the more responsibility we have to honor that trust. We do this by —

1. Being extremely careful with our words. Words are so powerful, and even more so if people are actually listening to our words.  The more people that listen, the more powerful our words become. I don’t want someone to form an opinion about someone else based on my experience with that person.  Just because I didn’t have a good encounter with a particular person, doesn’t mean that everyone else won’t. And judging people on one encounter is never a good idea, anyway. It’s better to just keep our mouths shut about others.  And if we are just natural “venters”  then we should at least counter our words with something like this: “but I know I probably didn’t handle it right, too” or some other such phrase. (I would add here that I am talking about personal relationships and not about warnings regarding false teachers, which is something we are called to do in scripture Acts 20:29-32).

If people trust us, our words also can be used to sway them towards God or away from God.  We can set a good example by speaking words of truth and faith and love and kindness or we can pull them away from God by our complaining and skeptical words.

2. Being extremely careful with whom we respect and trust as Christian leaders and pastors. If people trust us, then we want to make sure that we are being very careful with where we place our own trust so that we are directing them to godly men and women who know and follow the traditional interpretation of the Word of God (2 Thessalonians 2:15). I look for men and women who are humble and holy (Titus 1:5-9) and for one who has not fallen into heresy or capitulated to worldly compromise (James 1:27) Unfortunately, my list of respected Christian leaders grows smaller almost every day. I try to be very careful with the links (listed to the right) I recommend because of this. I don’t want to be responsible for directing anyone astray. In fact, last year, there was a link listed there of a ministry I did trust but when I became aware of some heresy in that ministry, I immediately removed it.  Sometimes we don’t know about a certain ministry, but when we do find out, we need to carefully withdraw our support of that ministry.

3. Being extremely careful with our actions. Oh, this is a tricky one and I often feel the weight of it. You see, I know my kids (and probably others) are watching me to see what I am watching, reading, listening to, and wearing. If I make a choice to do or wear something that is on the line, then I will, in essence, be giving my approval of that thing. Even if, afterwards, I recognize that it was not a good decision the damage will have been done. Occasionally, I will watch a movie that may be questionable by myself first before allowing my kids to watch it but, more often than not, I just don’t watch it. In fact, the older I have gotten the more I lean towards just not wasting my time on something that includes things that offend my God. Life is just too short for that and the trust issue too great. I still do mess up sometimes, though, on this one.

Our actions, of course, also include things like flaring up in anger or gossiping to our friends or lying to our boss. People, and especially our kids, are watching us all the time. It is critical to do the right thing not only to please the Lord (which is the primary reason) but also because of the observant eyes of the ones who are looking to us as an example.

Trust is a mighty thing. If we have it, we need to be very careful with it. It can be lost in a moment by doing something stupid.  And there is a constant struggle going on inside with the perpetual question: “Do I want my kids (or anyone else who trusts me) to be like me?” If I am honest, my answer is always no. I have such a long way to go in my walk with God. But I keep trying, knowing that people are watching and that I have a responsibility to be the most godly person I can be based on what I have learned about God and His Word so far.

 

 

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