Reblog: 9 Parenting Truths from John Piper

John Piper addressed the question, Does Proverbs Promise My Child Will Not Stray? in a recent episode of Ask Pastor John. As you might have guessed, the question was based on Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Piper ended the episode by sharing these 9 truths for parents to remember and follow:

1) In general, bringing up children God’s way will lead them to eternal life. In general, that is true.

2) This reality would include putting our hope in God and praying earnestly for our wisdom and for their salvation all the way to the grave. Don’t just pray until they get converted at age 6. Pray all the way to the grave for your children’s conversions and for the perseverance of their apparent conversions.

3) Saturate them with the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

4) Be radically consistent and authentic in your own faith — not just in behavior, but in affections. Kids need to see how precious Jesus is to mom and dad, not just how he is obeyed or how they get to church or how they read devotions or how they do duty, duty, duty. They need to see the joy and the satisfaction in mom and dad’s heart that Jesus is the greatest friend in the world.

5) Model the preciousness of the gospel. As we parents confess our own sins and depend on grace, our kids will say, “Oh, you don’t have to be perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. They love grace. They love the gospel because Jesus forgives their sins. And I will know then he can forgive my sins.”

6) Be part of a Bible-saturated, loving church. Kids need to be surrounded by other believers and not just mom and dad.

7) Require obedience. Do not be lazy. There are so many young parents today that appear so lazy. They are not willing to get up and do what needs to be done to bring this kid into line. So we should follow through on our punishments and follow through especially on all of our promises of good things that we say we are going to do for them.

8) God saves children out of failed and unbelieving parenting. God is sovereign. We aren’t the ones, finally, who save our kids. God saves kids and there would hardly be any Christians in the world if he didn’t save them out of failed families.

9) Rest in the sovereignty of God over your children. We cannot bear the weight of their eternity. That is God’s business and we must roll all of that onto him.

Find an audio here.

Reblog: How the Spirit Draws a Child

Five Things Parents Can Do

by Desiring God written by Bud Burk

A child’s young life is filled with new experiences. There are those firsts, like the first taste of ice cream or the first sight of an ocean. There are special memories, like a fifth birthday or skating on a frozen lake. There are many new discoveries, like visiting the zoo or learning how to read.

This fleeting season is like a passing breeze in the evening compared to the rest of a child’s life, but it is precious to form their young spirits. These weeks and months are rich with the potential for spiritual formation.

As a pastor for family discipleship and children’s ministries, I see how open children’s hearts often are, with a kind of eagerness to learn that is distinct to childhood. Our part as parents is to nurture their hearts toward Christ through prayer, God’s word, and patient love, while trusting the Spirit to minister to them as only he can. We cannot change our children’s hearts. But we can welcome the Spirit’s work as we join him in exalting the name of Jesus Christ in our homes.

How God Moves Before Conversion

Picture five draft horses harnessed together, steadily pulling a plow. Those five strong horses represent five graces that I have seen the Spirit often use to draw souls to Jesus. When applied to children, these graces can patiently nurture and till the soil of a child’s heart, even before regeneration. I have given these five graces names: drawing grace, leading grace, understanding grace, displaying grace, and paying-attention grace. Each grace has a distinct theme, with some overlap, and each is filled with extraordinary potential.

Drawing Grace

Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. . . . It is the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:44, 63). The theme of drawing grace is life in Jesus. What are the various ways the Spirit may draw, one step at a time, a young soul closer to Christ?

Every moment of a child’s life, every situation and relationship, can become a place where the Spirit is moving. He does not wait to tend to a heart at the point of regeneration. Consider the following as examples of the countless ways he uses “the normal” in our children’s lives:

  • A mother’s song overheard by a child in the womb
  • A warm embrace by dad as he prays a blessing on a second birthday
  • Overheard confession and forgiveness between a mom and a dad
  • The winsome heralding of a preacher on Sunday morning
  • Simple prayers offered by grandparents over their grandchildren
  • A kind word from a Sunday school teacher

The Spirit is often on the move in the normal routines of a child’s life, even before regeneration. We have the privilege of being alert to this daily Spirit-wrought work, which will lead us to join Paul in learning to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Drawing grace calls us to live and pray by the Spirit in the familiar and mundane.

Leading Grace

Paul says, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

The theme of leading grace is the kindness of God — kindness that is intended to bring the gift of repentance (2 Timothy 2:25). Let us ask the Father in Jesus’s name for such a gift, and then with his help guide our children in a way that is in step with his leading.

As we lead our children with kindness, especially during moments of merciful correction, we can cultivate the spiritual formation of our children before regeneration. May we see discipline through this lens and foster a home environment of kindness, patience, and love.

Understanding Grace

Again, Paul writes,

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. . . . The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14)

The theme of understanding grace is teaching our children the Bible and praying for the Spirit to press down God’s word into their hearts and minds — especially the great truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can get children to speak and repeat truth, which is good, but only the Spirit can transform our children to trust truth and love truth — to trust and love Truth himself. So, we teach children the Bible patiently and prayerfully.

Displaying Grace

Displaying grace revels in beholding the patience of Christ toward sinners. Paul writes, “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

Paul’s use of the word were emphasizes the pre-regenerating work of the Spirit. Paul received mercy so that future believers would see that mercy and then go on to receive mercy. How we as parents, grandparents, and fruit-bearing servants among children should love this special grace!

As Paul personally recounts God’s mercy upon him in Christ, his heart overflows: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). Displaying grace especially works through parents who are being recaptured by the wonder of this good news by rehearsing it and calling it to mind. As they do, they will sing not only with their voices but with the countenance of their hearts while young ears listen in and young eyes watch. As our children see God’s mercy displayed in us, the Spirit can stir up in them a yearning to receive the same mercy.

Paying-Attention Grace

Luke writes, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14).

This is the climactic grace, the grace which all the previous heart-cultivating graces have been striving for. In a moment, the Spirit finally opens the hearts of our children to pay attention to the gospel in a different way than they have previously — and there is life.

Some moments create a special opportunity for God to give this paying-attention grace. We don’t put all of our hope in these specific moments, and with God’s help we will not despair when these do not turn out as we hoped, but it seems fitting to consider them from time to time. Times that may stir up this kind of conversation include:

  • A Good Friday or Resurrection Sunday service
  • A funeral or memorial service
  • Christmas morning
  • An unexpected moment of fear or suffering, such as an accident or the diagnosis of cancer
  • A memorable sermon on a normal Sunday
  • A family worship time that is particularly moving

Consider how to make the most of whatever special markers God by his providence has provided you. They truly are gifts.

Show Them Christ

We can ask God for help to be alert to what the Spirit is doing in our children’s lives, and be on the lookout for those five horses tilling the soil of the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I haven’t seen any of these graces in my son or daughter,” and your heart is heavy. Perhaps you have a child who is already 10, or 25. What would I say to you?

First, I would remind you that Jesus is moved by your hurting heart, and your Father knows your cries even before you pray them (Matthew 6:8). Consider Psalm 94:19: “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

Second, remember that the best of parents cannot make one soul live. This is not a responsibility designed for us. It is easier for parents of the 10-year-old to fall into this trap, so let us learn from the parents of the 25-year-old. It is likely that these parents have learned their inability to give spiritual life. We will find freedom when we yield to the Spirit the work that he alone can do.

Third, keep praying to the Father in Jesus’s name, and hope through tears. Whether it’s a 10-year-old or a 25-year-old, love them during this season in obvious ways, and patiently keep pointing them to Christ, who is supreme in love.

Point on, dear friends, with a loving tone in your parenting and a hopeful heart in your God.

Reblog: Pastor, Include More Prayer in Your Church Service

by the TGC

I remember hearing a story about an African church leader who was brought to America to tour churches. At the end he was asked his thoughts.

He replied, “I’m surprised by how little prayer I witnessed.”

The American church, at least in my experience, tends to be lackluster in prayer. This is especially evident in corporate worship services. It can be hard to find an evangelical church service that even contains one three-minute prayer. Yet Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13).

Maybe it’s our independent American spirit, or maybe it’s a lukewarm faith. Regardless, many churches need to repent of prayerlessness, especially in corporate worship.

Put Prayer Back In

There are two principal ways corporate prayer can be implemented and encouraged in a local church. First, worship services should be filled with prayer. It’s insufficient to sing a few songs, read a text of Scripture, sing another song, and close the service. Though songs can be understood as a form of prayer, they’re not enough. Without formal prayer throughout the service, we are robbed of opportunity to learn and participate in the prayers of God’s people.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking on family worship at churches and various conferences. I always encourage families to pray together—it’s one of the essential means of grace. Inevitably, one question is asked during a break. A man will linger in the corner, wait for others to finish their questions, and then finally ask: “What if I don’t know how to pray? What do I do then?”

I doubt this is an anomaly. More likely, it’s epidemic. And I’d guess much of the epidemic flows from the lack of prayer in our worship services.

Teach Them to Pray by Praying

As a leader offers extended prayer in the worship service, congregants are taught how to pray. They hear the structure, the tone, the words, the manner, the items that rise to importance, and the Word applied. Prayer is as much caught as taught.

Each Lord’s Day worship service should include an extended time of prayer so that people are taught. But instruction is not the only reason. We are a people of prayer. We are sons and daughters who should long to speak to our heavenly Father—and not just individually, but together. The Christian life is not a solo endeavor. Our spiritual lives are inextricably tied to other members of the body. Corporate prayer reminds us of this common bond.

It’s also helpful to fill corporate worship with different types of prayer. This allows for teaching and expression along different lines. I think an average service should include a prayer of invocation, adoration, confession of sin, supplication (pastoral or prayer of intercession), illumination, and thanksgiving. The prayer of supplication should be an extended prayer—not so long that people fall asleep, but long enough that the congregation knows it as a long prayer. I believe this should either be a pre-written prayer or a studied prayer.

The typical pastor or elder today—myself included—lacks the ability or experience to offer an extended extemporaneous prayer, in a way that richly engages and edifies God’s people, without writing or thinking through it beforehand. Other prayers in the service could be extemporaneous or even written prayers the entire congregation prays together aloud.

Include Prayer Services

The second principal way corporate prayer can be encouraged in the church is by having a regular prayer service. This is a service in which prayer dominates the hour. I’ve attended too many “prayer services” filled with teaching, preaching, or singing to the exclusion of prayer. By definition, a prayer service is mainly for prayer. It’s an occasion for the church to gather on its knees before its Lord. These services should be regular—at least monthly, if not weekly.

But don’t make them too routine in structure. Prayer services need to vary so that minds don’t run too far afield. If the service is an hour, divide the hour into segments. Use different methods of prayer, types of prayer, and subjects of prayer in the various segments. The combination of methods, types, and subjects is truly endless. This prevents a prayer meeting from becoming tedious, and it also allows for each prayer service to have a different feel, though the same practice is taking place.

As our prayer in corporate worship grows in maturity, so it will grow in the personal lives of our people. This is a much-neglected discipline and a means of grace. I would love to see this changed in the evangelical world. I’m confident our Father would as well.

Find the original article here.

 

Reblog: What does the pastor do?

How does the pastor spend his time? That is a question that sometimes arises from some who are critical and most who are just curious.

Medieval monks would spend their time at appointed hours praying, singing and chanting at their home, while transcribing texts in the intervening hours.

At the Reformation, so little of the previous centuries work had been dedicated to preaching, that the Reformers stood out for their emphasis on the pulpit.

The consistory of Geneva spent a great deal of time reviewing pastoral care issues, thinking through them biblically and apply counsel to people and situations. Sometimes the counsel and care was disregarded and some Genevans preferred to be disciplined out of the church, than to be discipled in the church. All of this took organization and care. But the primary driver of the ministry was the Word work. Calvin’s preaching through the bible provided the basis for doctrine in the church in Geneva, and the surrounding village churches that worked together with Calvin’s, seeking counsel from Calvin’s elders, even making requests for pulpit supply.

Some things have changed, but others have stayed the same.

Word Work & Prayer Work

Today the work of the Word and Prayer (cf. Acts 6:4) are the two greatest tasks which the pastor must undertake. Both of these are work. It is not enough to tell the congregation that you just didn’t ‘get anything out of the Word’ this week. It requires mental and spiritual ‘sweat’. It is taxing. It makes you tired like all work does.

The Word work and Prayer work  have the added problem of being difficult to measure. Prayer is done ‘in the closet’. Word work is  done ‘at the desk’. But consider that the person who is in the closet or at the desk is largely out of sight. That means that it can appear as if the faithful pastor is unaccountable or unavailable or invisible.

What is the measure of the Word and Prayer work? It is seen in the fruit of the ministry. It is seen in the healthy diet which people feed upon. It is seen in the Spirit’s illumination of people to understand God’s word better, to be helped by God’s truth, to glorify God’s ways.

The weakness of the pulpit speaks to the emptiness of the closet and the barrenness of the desk.

Pastoralist Work

But there is another aspect to the pastoral ministry that must have a part. It is the pastoralist part. That is, it is the awareness and care for the condition of the sheep. The pastor must know the people he is feeding. If he doesn’t know what their condition is, then the diet he offers will be too thick or too thin, too spicy or too sweet.

So the pastor exhorts and teaches personally in his interactions with people. He hears their anxieties and cares. He points them to Christ. This is the pastor’s task also.

Not Shopkeeper Nor Therapist

Sometimes people can get confused about their expectations for the pastor. Pastors can be viewed as shop-keepers or therapists.  Some sheep don’t wish to be led to feed in green pastures, but wish to be treated like a pet in the shepherd’s home.

As David Wells has pointed out, our era is a Therapeutic Age. And this emphasis has dominated the thought of pastors and church members. The people expect the pastor to be a therapist, on call to fix them, and the pastor moves increasingly to be responsive to the ‘felt needs’ of the people. This mindset came to dominate the pastoral style of the seeker sensitive movement. And with it, the sufficiency of the Scriptures was lost as desks and closets were left empty.

So there is a constant struggle which the pastor faces. He must be jealous to guard the desk and closet time. As John Macarthur said many times, “the task of the pastor-teacher is to keep his rear-end in the chair until the job is done”. On the other hand, the pastor must know the sheep, and be able to offer feeding and protection according to their needs. He must do this without subtly giving in to worldly expectations of his role which come from the people or from himself.

Re: Vimeo: How Many Stars

The question is timeless. Pondered, throughout history, by human beings of every culture, age, and nationality: how many stars are there in the universe? This fascinating film explores worlds gigantic and microscopic to reveal answers that challenge our perceptions of creation. Travel with us through galaxies and grains of sand; molecules and atoms, to count the stars and marvel at all that God has made.

Reblog: How (What) to Pray for Your Grandchildren (Answers In Genesis)

Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations. (Psalm 119:89–90)

Are you a grandparent or do you hope to be one someday? Are you an “empty nester” or do you still have children in your home? No matter where you are in life or who is currently living in your home, there are children who would be blessed by your prayers. I hope to encourage you in the joy and privilege of praying for and with your grandchildren, surrogate grandchildren or future grandchildren. In today’s culture the authority of God’s Word is eroding and our children are facing the consequences of turning to man’s word as the authority (evolutionary takeover of creation, disregard for authority, gender confusion, etc.), it is more important than ever to pray for our future generations.

Just a few years ago I remember praying that my husband and I would be grandparents one day. Within five years of that prayer we were blessed with five children that would call us grandpa and grandma. Each child is a unique and special gift from God and we not only have the joy of having them as part of our lives, we also have the privilege and responsibility of praying for them.

Find the rest of the article here.