The most important tool in our parenting toolbox is invisible. As a result, we too often fail to put it into use until the last moment when we’ve tried everything with no success.
I had a husband and wife come to me and share that their five-year-old child refused to remain in bed after they tucked him in. Every night they went through a long routine of repeated encouragement, admonishment, and correction that lasted for upwards of an hour while their son again and again voiced excuse after excuse for why he couldn’t go to sleep. They tried waking him very early, the reward system, looking for the idol in his heart, and even allowed him to stay up late till he wanted to go to bed, only to discover the same result tucking him in at midnight. They were at their wits end. “What else can we do?” they lamented in my office with tears. “We have tried everything.”
They were wrong. They forgot the invisible tool at their disposal. I noticed they hadn’t mentioned it, so I asked, “Have you tried prayer?” They were quiet as they dealt with the immediate embarrassment of the moment. After all, no respectable Christian wants to forget prayer. They remembered a few desperate prayers but admitted that they largely were trying to fix the problem on their own. So I encouraged them with two things. First, God was probably working in their lives through this trial and helping them to learn to depend on Him in it. Secondly, they didn’t have to walk alone but could pray and ask God to help them persevere and give their son more immediate rest. We only had one session–the problem resolved itself shortly after they began praying.
So what about you? How quickly do you reach for the invisible tool of prayer for your family? God is able to help us in our time of need and strengthen us for the trials we are in through prayer. In prayer you are conversing with the very same God who created the universe and keeps our planet spinning. If that is the case, then he is able to care for us in our little needs. The problem is that we are too self-sufficient and full of unbelief. We trust in ourselves until God allows us to fail, leading us to cry out in desperation for His help.
When one of our daughters was around ten, my wife and I began to notice a serious pattern of sloth in her life. I’m not sure why we picked prayer as the answer. I think I reached back to the parenting tool box without looking and grabbed for a tool. I pulled prayer out, and my wife and I gave it a try. We prayed consistently for God to remove sloth from our daughter’s life and help her grow in diligence. We prayed for a while but then suddenly one day, after she took initiative to clean the house without being asked, we realized God had completely changed her. Today, she is one of our hardest working kids and doesn’t procrastinate at all, working diligently to get things accomplished. The change was so dramatic my wife and I see it as a miracle of God. No other tool could have accomplished the same result.
Not every prayer results in the same kind of dramatic change in the circumstance. Sometimes prayer changes us in the midst of our circumstances so that we are better able to minister to our children and guide them effectively. Whatever your challenge, don’t forget to pray. Make a list of all that you want God to do in your life and the lives of your children and pray. Pray believing God is able to do more than you ask (Ephesians 3:20) and that He knows your prayers even before you ask (Matthew 6:8). God won’t answer every prayer to suit our desires, but He will hear every prayer and give us what is best. Prayer is not a last resort, but our greatest tool. Yet because it is invisible, we too often don’t believe it is there until we are forced to trust it. The next time you run into a problem, pull out prayer first and then expect God to move.
By Marty Machowski
Author of Gospel Story Curriculum, The Gospel Story Bible, Old Story New, and Long Story Short. Posted with permission.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Eric Campbell
With what shall I come to the Lord
And bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
With yearling calves?
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams,
In ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:6-8 NASB)
Why does he mention his firstborn, or the fruit of his body?
The movement is from lesser to greater...
thousands of rams
10,000 rivers of oil
the fruit of my body
In other words, your child is your greatest commodity, your dearest possession.
What could compare in an earthly sense, other than your spouse or a dear family member (parent, brother, sister, etc.)?
Imagine sacrificing your firstborn son on the altar.
More importantly, that is what God did for us in sending His only Son.
How terrible, how unthinkable, how perplexing!
How great, how wonderful, how sacrificial, how loving!
"How deep the Father's love for us,
How great beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure."
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Recently, Tim Senn preached two messages on the Lord's Prayer, also known as the Disciples' Prayer. At the end of these messages, he shared the quote below by an unknown author summarizing the prayer:
I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.
I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed by Thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day.
I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His Word.
I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I will not serve Him here and now.
I cannot say “give us our daily bread” if I am unwilling to work.
I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I do not put on the armor of God.
I cannot say “Thine is the kingdom” if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what men may do.
I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself.
I cannot say “forever” if the focus of my life is set completely on the things of time.
Friday, June 28, 2013
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16 (NAS)
In this passage, Jesus first warns that salt can lose its taste, or “saltiness.” To the modern mind, this teaching is troublesome, because we know that sodium chloride is a stable compound, and thus salt cannot lose its properties as salt! But Jesus was not speaking scientifically, but ethically – remember, these are metaphors! The phrase “has become tasteless” literally means to lose effectiveness or to become worthless. Because of how it was mined, most of the salt in the ancient world was mixed with other minerals such as gypsum. Because the salt was soluble in water, often a tablet or block of salt could become diluted to contain only the impurities and other minerals. Thus, it became worthless as a preservative and lost its flavor, so it was thrown out upon the streets and roads and was “trampled underfoot by men.” We know that this “worthless” residue of white, salt-less powder was used in the Temple in Jerusalem in the winter to prevent worshippers from slipping.
How then do believers “lose their saltiness” or effectiveness in the world? It is when we become just like the world and indistinguishable from it! The danger confronting Christians is that when we engage the world, we face the risk of being “squeezed into the world’s mold” and being more influenced by it than we are exerting an influence over it. As salt, we are to engage the world and be “rubbed into it.” And yet, if the world rubs off on us more than we rub off on them, we lose our influence and will have no impact! Therefore, to be salt, we need to resist worldliness and maintain our distinctiveness as Christians.
If the danger to salt is worldliness, then the danger to light is cowardice. Jesus describes it as “hiding” your light under a basket. This is the tendency among believers to withdraw from the world out of fear or indifference. We are so frightened of being influenced by the world, or so fearful of being rejected by the world, that we hide our light and refuse to let it shine.
Perhaps we have been rejected by others or persecuted when we have tried to share our faith, and thus we have retreated into the comfort and security of being a “private” Christian. But in making sure that the world doesn’t exert an influence upon us, we fail to exert any influence upon them! As we share our faith with others, some will reject us and the Gospel we believe, but others will be drawn into the light! According to Jesus, hiding your light is just as worthless as losing your salt – a private Christian or secret believer is just as useless in the world as a worldly Christian!
It is the very nature of salt to impede corruption, and it is the very nature of light to shine. This makes the Christian life quite simple! Wherever you go, be salt and light. To everyone you meet, be salt and light! If you are a Christian, you can’t help but be salt and light!
But practically speaking, perhaps these are better questions with which to examine ourselves:
- In what areas of my life have I become indistinguishable from the world?
- Which individuals or groups of people influence me more for evil than I influence them for good?
- What areas of compromise exist in my life that I need to repent of and resist so that I can regain my saltiness?
- With whom am I afraid to share the Gospel?
- In what situations do I shrink back or cower from identifying myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ and witnessing to the truth?
- In what areas have I retreated into comfort and safety rather than shining my light for Christ?
From the sermon God’s Transformation Agents.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
By Eric Campbell
What ever happened to hope? Sadly, for many of us, we omit “hope” from 1 Corinthians 13:13, and we think it’s all about striving for more and more “faith” to meet life’s challenges. The world says, “All you can do is hope,” but that kind of hope is uncertain, based on an outcome that is unlikely.
But a biblical hope is quite different, isn’t it? Christian hope is certain, steadfast, and based on the Word of God. It is an eager expectation for something unseen, not yet realized, but promised by God for our future good. However, even for us as believers, hope can be lost, completely missing in our lives, or placed in uncertain, earthly things.
We must be sure that our hope is placed in the right object: God and His Word, not in earthly circumstances, which may fail us. And hope is important in this life alone, because we will not need it in eternity. Hope then will be realized and fulfilled, but for now it is actually something we all desperately need.
The Greek word for hope, elpis, occurs approximately fifty times in the New Testament, with the highest concentrations in Acts and Romans. From these references, we learn quite a few interesting things!
- Hope can be lost, so it is something to which we must hold fast. (Heb 6:18)
- Hope does not bring shame. (Rom 5:5)
- In our hope we rejoice and boast; it is something we confess. (Rom 12:12; Heb 3:6)
- It is to one hope that we were called by God. (Eph 4:4)
- Before Christ, we had no hope, so all unbelievers are hope-less. (Eph 2:12)
- Our hope is in heaven, where Christ is, so when we get there we won’t need hope anymore! (Col 1:5)
- Hope is like a helmet that protects the head, and like anchor that secures the soul. (1Th 5:8; Heb 6:19)
- It is a “living” hope, because Jesus is alive! (1Pet 1:3)
For what do Christians hope?
- The resurrection of the body (Acts 2:26)
- Our adoption as sons (Rom 8:23-24)
- The glory of God (Rom 5:2)
- The renewal of all creation (Rom 8:20-21)
- God Himself (Col 1:27)
- The future, permanent home of righteousness (2Co 3:12)
- The second coming of Christ (Tit 2:13)
What are the benefits of Christian hope?
- It puts present troubles and hardship in perspective. (Rom 5:3-4)
- It helps us through the loss of loved ones. (1Thes 4:13-18)
- It’s a good witness to others. (1Pet 3:15)
- By hoping in Christ you purify yourself. (1Jn 3:3)
How about you? Are you filled with hope? Do others see you as a “hopeful” person? If not, consider these practical ways hope can be cultivated and restored in your life:
- Ask God to pour out His love into your heart by the Holy Spirit. Try this! (Rom 5:5; 15:13)
- Seek for the encouragement of the Scriptures. Feed on the Word. (Rom 15:4)
- Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the firstfruits of the resurrection, for we will be like Him! (1Jn 3:2)
- Think about God’s promises for the future, the second coming, the resurrection of the body, and the renewal of all creation.
- Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19) that cultivate hope in your heart (e.g. "In Christ Alone," "Be Unto Your Name," "The Solid Rock," "On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand").
“In Christ alone my hope is found:
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.”
-Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Friday, January 25, 2013
The Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing." The term "encourage" means exactly what it says. The term "build up" means to "make someone more able." In this case Paul is asking us "to make one another more able" to stand fast and make one another more able to persevere to the Day of the Lord. There are four truths from God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 that believers can speak into the lives of other believers "to build them up, (make them more able) to keep on to the Day of the Lord."
- You have escaped the wrath of God: (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5) - The Day of the Lord will not "overtake" the brethren. The term "overtake" implies being overtaken; it catches up with you. You think you have escaped it, but it catches up with you and unleashes slaughter, destruction, and judgment. But that will not happen to "you, brethren." You have escaped the wrath of God. Speak this often to one another to encourage and build up one another.
- You have been entered into the family of God: (1 Thessalonians 5:5) - Paul says, "We are sons of light and sons of day." This is a double Hebrew idiom. When the Hebrew people heard the phrase, "you are the son of . . .," to their ears it meant whatever you are a son of has a dominating influence on your life. So in the milieu of life, remind your brothers and sisters whose sons and daughters they are and the nature they have of light and of day.
- You can anticipate the Day of the Lord with great enthusiasm: (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8) - Be ready and be looking for the day! Exhort one another to be busying themselves with preparation for their departure to live together with Him forever. It means telling one another to be busy in the work of sanctification. Make sure you are clothed properly. "The breastplate of faith" - trusting in Christ alone - and "the breastplate of love" - devotion and unchallenged, unrivaled love of God. Finally, "and as a helmet, the hope of salvation" - dwell and fix your mind on the final consummation, the glorification aspect of salvation. Exhort one another to remember our blessed hope.
- Remind one another of God’s glorious intentions for the brethren: (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10) - "For obtaining salvation" - the full and complete salvation and rescue of man. That is God's glorious intention for those whom He calls. (See Isaiah 46:8-11). Then God reveals a second glorious intention for the brethren: "so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him."
Friday, January 18, 2013
Just as Spirit baptism marks our entrance into the community of the universal church, likewise water baptism marks our initiation or entrance into the community of the local church. In Spirit baptism, a person becomes part of Christ’s body, and in water baptism, a person becomes part of the local expression of that body in the community of the church. Thus, because of the reality of Spirit baptism, we should be committed to several non-negotiables concerning its sign, water baptism:
- Water baptism should be for believers only! It is designed for those who have repented of their sins and have put their faith in Christ. The Church is not a “mixed” entity, as was OT Israel. But every true member of the Church has been regenerated! This is why we ask for a “credible profession of faith” from those whom we baptize. They must be able to articulate what it means to believe in Christ, and their life must consistently match their profession of faith. We don’t look for a sinless life of perfection, but we do look for signs of genuine fruit and obedience.
- Water baptism was ordained and commanded by Christ and is part of Christian discipleship. Following Christ means that you will desire to publicly identify yourself with Him, and will not be ashamed to confess Him before men!
- Water baptism should be by immersion. This is the example set by Scripture, and it is the best picture of being buried with Christ and raised from the dead!
- Water baptism presupposes regeneration, and is a sign or symbol of regeneration. It is the New Covenant sign!
- Water baptism assumes repentance, expresses repentance, and should result by God’s grace in a life of ongoing repentance!
- Water baptism identifies a person as belonging to God, and one who has “passed through the waters of divine judgment” and has been rescued from future wrath by Jesus Christ.
- Whether administered in the church building or in a public place like a lake or river, baptism should be part of the worship of the assembled church. It is a corporate, not an individual, event. If it marks entrance into the local church, then the church body should be invited to attend and witness the baptism.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Repentance is really a switching of allegiances from personal sin and enslavement in the kingdom of darkness to faith in Jesus and being transferred into His kingdom. Repentance is the only proper entrance into the presence of a Holy King!
- Repentance begins with a fundamentally different outlook upon sin and human nature.
- Repentance continues with an emotional hatred of sin and disgust with its filthiness.
- Repentance continues when we turn away from sin and turn to serve and obey God.
- Repentance continues throughout the entire life of a Christian – it is a way of life. Jesus doesn’t want you to just change your mind – He purposes to change your entire life! Christ came to make you the person that God wants you to become!
- Genuine Repentance will produce “fruit,” or characteristics of the new life. It is characterized by new attitudes and new actions. Genuine conversion produces attitudes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, and goodness. It produces actions like a desire to worship, relate personally to God through Bible reading and prayer, service to others, fellowship with other Christians, and sharing your faith with unbelievers.
Repentance is therefore not about good intentions, but about moral transformation! It is about a completely new direction in life! In repentance:
- The greedy become generous!
- The selfish become servants!
- The complainer becomes content!
- The promiscuous become pure!
- The idolater becomes a worshipper!
- The spiritually apathetic become spiritually passionate!
- The criticizer becomes a comforter!
- The drunkard becomes disciplined!
- The burglar becomes a benefactor!
- The hard-hearted becomes humble!
Monday, September 17, 2012
In Jeremiah 23:28-29, the prophet writes:
“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”
Jeremiah was taking issue with those prophets in his day who were claiming to speak on behalf of God, but whose words were the “deception of their own heart” (v. 26). Jeremiah contended with them because they were feeding God’s people “straw” or “chaff” rather than the wholesome grain of God’s Word! As a result, God’s people were malnourished and weakened by spiritual famine.
Since the time of the Reformation, Bible believing churches have held to the principle of “Sola Scriptura,” a phrase which means, “by Scripture alone.” This doctrine maintains a belief in the unique authority and sufficiency of the Bible as the source for all we need to know God and to obey Him in our lives.
And yet in the evangelical world today there is a movement that challenges the sufficiency of Scripture by separating the ministry of the Holy Spirit from His Word in Holy Scripture. This teaching proposes that the Holy Spirit is giving new or fresh words to God’s people – not words that are on par with the authority of Scripture, but nevertheless words from God that allow us to experience His presence with us and which guide us in our decision making. The assumption behind this belief is that since God can guide us as He guided His people in the past through various forms of prophecy and revelation, that He continues to do so today. A scholarly explanation of this view has been given by Dr. Wayne Grudem in his book, The Gift of Prophecy. A more popular and experiential version has been written about in Sarah Young’s bestselling book, Jesus Calling. For two excellent critiques of Young’s book, click on the links at the bottom of this article.
In response to this teaching, the words of the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” come to my mind: “What more can He say than to you He has said?” With those words, the hymn writer was affirming both the unique authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture, the great doctrine of the Reformation called “Sola Scriptura.” It is a simple and yet profound question – “What more can He say?” Of course, God is able to say more than what He has revealed in the Bible – in that sense, He can say more. But that is not really what is being asked! The question is, “Does God need to say more to us than what He has already revealed in the Scripture?” And “should we expect Him to say more?”
The answer of “Sola Scriptura” is “NO!!” At stake in this discussion is not simply who will win a theological argument – rather, it is the difference between whether we will dine up straw or feast upon wheat when it comes to our spiritual nourishment. Is the Bible alone sufficient for our source of spiritual bread, or should we be looking elsewhere for supplements to this heavenly food?
Over 400 years ago, Puritan pastor John Owen warned the church about separating the ministry of the Holy Spirit from the Bible:
“He that would utterly separate the Spirit from the Word had as good (as well) burn his Bible” (Ferguson, writing in “The Holy Spirit” by John Owen, p. 26).
I want to continue sound the same warning as I will show you that there is an unmistakable and unbreakable bond between the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible. There exists a close correlation and harmony between the Holy Spirit and God’s written Word contained in the Scripture. In fact, God’s Word, now contained in the Bible, is inseparable from the Holy Spirit, Who both inspired the Scriptures and illumines believers so that we can properly understand it. I plan to show you that because God’s Word in Scripture is complete, that we should expect no “new words” or “new revelation” from God the Holy Spirit to the church today.
For a full explanation of this statement, please take time to listen to the message I preached on September 16th, 2012. But let me refer to just one verse that supports this teaching.
The close link between the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scripture is clearly set forth by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:17, who, when speaking about the various weapons in the spiritual armor of the believer says, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Notice from this verse that the Holy Spirit and His sword are both separate or distinct, and yet inseparable.
In other words, we must not collapse or confuse the two – the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Bible. He is a Person -- the Bible is His written Word. And yet, the sword or weapon or instrument that the Holy Spirit wields is the Word of God, which as we will see, is a clear reference to God’s written Word in Scripture. It is the media that He uses to minister to God’s people, and apart from His Sword, we should not expect any “immediate” words from Him! In all of His various ministries - conviction of sin, regeneration, the giving of faith and repentance, assurance, etc. - the weapon wielded by the Holy Spirit is the Bible.
Thus, we must not separate the work of the Spirit from the Word of God which He inspired. We must therefore be careful to avoid two errors: (1) We must not separate the Bible from the Holy Spirit – as if we could read and understand it apart from His help; and (2) We must not separate the Holy Spirit from the Bible, as if He would speak to us apart from or in addition to His Word.
I appreciate what Phillip Jensen says in his book, “Guidance and the Voice of God,”
This is the tragedy of the modern “hearing God’s voice” movement. It is so busy listening intently for what God might say in my head this morning, that it fails to hear what God is shouting at us this morning and every morning from the Scriptures (Jensen, p. 98).
The Bible says of itself that it is living and active – a fire and a hammer. Man does not and cannot live on bread alone, but derives his spiritual life from the teachings of the Bible. God the Holy Spirit works intimately each day to open our spiritual eyes and ears to understand what He has already written in Scripture – what could be more intimate than that? The Bible contains the living and enduring words of God – words that bring salvation and sanctification. Therefore, if you are desirous of hearing the voice of the living God, you will find it when the Holy Spirit applies the truths of the Scripture to our lives, and when He awakens within us a response of obedience to what God has already spoken once for all in the Bible!
“What more can He say than to you he hath said?"
Why seek the nourishment from straw, when the Bible offers you wholesome grain? What do the two really have in common?
Review from The Cripplegate
Review from Tim Challies
Tim Senn's message from 9/16/12
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
- Look for men who are not merely seeking a title or office.
- Look for men who demonstrate a “fellow-elder” mentality. Look for men who are team players with a side-by-side approach to the work.
- Look for men already in the battle; they have already joined in the fray. They are already involved in ministry.
- Look for men who are players, not bench warmers.
- Look for men who are motivated by the love of God and the hope we have in Christ. A strong grasp of “the blessed hope” (a view of eternity) keeps them motivated.
- Look for life-time learners. They should be students of God’s Word and growing in doctrinal understanding.
- Look for men who are guiding other men, who can defend the faith, who exhibit the ability to lead and to feed - men solid in God’s Word.
- Look for men among the sheep who know the sheep.
- Look for men sacrificially serving the flock.
What He Should NOT Be Like:
- Not under compulsion - Watch out for men who see ministry as an obligation; the heart of a reluctant draftee; sees ministry as an irksome task; someone having to be prodded; hesitant to pick up responsibility and needs.
- Not for sordid gain - He should not be a lover of money. This is a cozying up to certain members, showing particular attention to them, with anticipation of a possible personal benefit. He should be free of a calculating spirit, with a desire to always keep the scales balanced
- Not lording it over - This means someone who is harsh, lacking gentleness. They don't lead people, they drive them. They are quick to judge people and tend to write people off and pull away from them. They are very controlling of people and circumstances
- Not focused on personal agenda and schedule.
- A voluntary spirit - Their heart demonstrates approval of guiding, guarding, tending, and feeding the flock. There is vigor and enthusiasm. They thrive on serving the body.
- An eager spirit - They are hungry for it and serve with cheerfulness and readiness. They are looking for ministry opportunities. Their love is for ministry, not money.
- Proving to be examples - Look for men who are worthy of imitation (to lay your life over and trace their lives). They can serve as patterns.
- Men who have put their hand to the plow and proven themselves faithful not to look back.