7 Things I Will Definitely Instill In My Sons

As I try to figure out what it means to be a father I know one thing for sure, I am not and will not be perfect. I will miss on some things and not emphasize some things as much as I should. With that said, here are 7 things I will be sure to instill with great intentionality:

  • The glory of God is our highest aim. Yeah, this sounds good, but what does this actually look like? Part of what it looks like is not allowing extracurricular activities to trump things like church, serving our community, and other Kingdom oriented happenings. It also means utilizing as their extracurricular activities (sports, band, etc) with a kingdom mindset. They need to be instilled from a young age that all we do is for the Lord and for others, not ourselves. I simply must always ask when making decisions, “Does this decision point them to God or make more of life about them?”
  • The beauty of learning. I absolutely love to learn. Learning is exciting. Sadly, I didn’t feel this way until I got to college. This is the case with many kids when they go off to college. I want to deeply instill in my sons a deep passion to read, study, and learn. I don’t want them to just listen and believe whatever I or anyone else tells them. I want to them to use learn to use reason and be able to study and process things very deeply. I want them to become master learners.
  • Women are to be honored and served. I know where this starts… they have to see this day in and day out with how I honor and serve my wife. Teenage boys have a strong tendency to speak to and treat girls disrespectfully and with dishonor. This will probably bring about my strongest discipline, starting with their mother. When my sons get married they will be called to be servant leaders of their home. I hope serving their wife is second nature to them by that point.
  • A healthy view of weakness and failure. Many young men have a great fear of failure and view weakness as something to be expunged. I want my sons to know that everyone fails, everyone. There aren’t those who fail and those who don’t. There are those who fail and respond with character and those who fail and are paralyzed by fear. I want them to know it is okay to be weak. Not only is it okay, but it is to be expected. I’m not trying to raise superficial super studs. I am trying to raise men who are strong because they aren’t afraid to fail and know weakness is within us all. His grace is sufficient in our weakness. A healthy view of weakness and failure ought to catalyze a healthy trust in God and thankfulness for his grace.
  • Fruit of the Spirit is better than the spirit of the age. Our culture values very different things from the Bible. Our culture seems to think physical beauty and approval of people reign supreme. I want my sons to go deeper than this. I want them to care deeply about character and integrity. I want them to be inspired to become men that are marked by the fruit of the Spirit. Their hearts need to instinctively see the value in the right fruits.
  • Biblical Manhood. Masculinity doesn’t just come based on anatomy.  I want my sons to be men, real men. I want them to look at the Bible for what real manhood is. Our culture is totally confused on what real masculinity is. From gay culture, metrosexuality, to machoism our culture has no idea what true manhood is. I want to instill in my sons a deep desire to discover what biblical masculinity and then strive after it with all they have.
  • Deep friendships are worth the time and effort. In todays world it is way too easy to be incredibly social and have a lot of people around without every having a deep friendship. There are very few things in life more valuable than deep friendships. To develop a deep friendship takes a lot of time, effort, honesty, and trust. I want to instill in them that a deep friendship is far more beneficial than being seen as cool by the crowd or loved by the many.

Sunday Grace :: A New Series

big-grace

I have decided to start a new blogging series that I will simply call the “Sunday Grace.” Sundays are always my favorite day of the week. I am always encouraged and drawn towards God on Sundays. It truly is a special thing to get to gather with blood bought brothers and sisters in Christ. We often forget the unique gift that “church” actually is. We see songs sung, say hello to people, hear the Bible preached (well, at good churches), and many other things.

What we often forget and sometimes neglect to feel is the spiritual realities of what happens when the church gathers together on Sundays. There is a lot of grace that is poured out on us when we gather and do the things God calls us to.

So, from here on out I am going to highlight a different grace that I feel/experience on Sundays. This could be anything from a MEGA experience with God to a small word or thought that I am blessed by. I have no idea what I will end up writing about on Sundays. But, every Sunday, I will reflect on and share a particular grace that I experience.

I am really looking forward to this.

Using Facebook and Loving One Another

*disclaimer- this post came out of a conversation from our last staff retreat- it is not aimed at anyone*

Do you remember in High School when everyone would work so hard to posture themselves to be seen in the best possible light? You would always want to be seen with the right people. You would always want to be on “the inside” and be a part of all the cool stuff happening.

At the heart of it we know this was an outworking of insecurity, desire for acceptance, and a need for approval. It looks much different today, but we are still doing the same thing. Have you ever asked yourself why you use Facebook the way you do?

I have noticed a couple things that sadden me. As a pastor I usually ask for people not to take pictures and put them online when we are hanging out. This is mainly for smaller hang outs, not birthday parties etc.

Why do I do this?

1) I have seen a tendency for people to use Facebook and “time with a pastor” as a chance to posture themselves and/or flaunt some type of status and position. It isn’t just with me and the other pastors though. People do the same thing with groups of friends, etc.

2) There are a lot of people who get their feelings hurt when they see people from their church or their groups of friends posting all these pictures of hanging out all the while they were not invited.

This has led to some hard conversations. Conversations that I think everyone should be aware of that will hopefully lead us to ask tough questions of our own hearts.

To the people in the first group the question must be asked, “Why do you feel the need to post every social outing online?” Everyone who is there already sees it and the only others who will see it are people who didn’t get invited.

To the people in the second group the question must be asked, “Why does it hurt you so much to not be invited every time you see people get together?”

Not always, but many times there is a sin issue at the bottom of those questions.

Let’s assume for the first group, for now, it isn’t a sin issue. For many people they simply enjoy putting their experiences online to go back and look at, so family can see, etc. Even if it isn’t a sin issue, if you know it hurts other people who are not there and didn’t get invited is it really worth still posting online?

Even if in your heart it is an innocent thing and there isn’t an underlying sin, what does it mean to love your neighbor in this situation? Is it loving to continue to do something that is going to cause hurt even if their hurt is based on their own sin they are working through?

“Should” people be so sensitive and easily offended, no. But we don’t live in a world as it should be, we live in the world that is. In this world, people’s feelings and insecurities create a perceived reality of being left out or unliked. It is loving and compassionate for us to be aware of this reality, while also challenging people to find their identity and security in Christ.

I think there are a couple verses that speak clearly to this:

Philippians 2:3-4- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Romans 15:1-2 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

Loving our neighbors sometimes means not doing something that is perfectly fine to do in order to look out for their interests, to build them up, and to care more about their welfare than your freedom.

May all of us consider how we use social media and be sure that we are using it in a way that builds up and loves one another as we are called to do.

World Vision Gets It Right With Humility and Christlikeness

After making a very controversial decision to change their policy in hiring people in same-sex marriages, World Vision has reversed their decision. Their decision to hire people in same-sex marriages created a mega-uproar in evangelicalism. Liberal christians applauded their decision while conservative evangelicals were quite shocked and even hurt by the decision.

World Vision has always had a great reputation for the work they do and the convictions they have held. It appeared they had chosen to leave those convictions at the door in the name of “unity.” Thankfully, Richard Stearns (who I respect greatly) and has seen their error in the decision and apologized.

This makes me very happy for two reasons:

1) Every organization is going to have to make the call to stand with Scripture or not. Though for a few days it appeared World Vision had chosen to bend with the culture, they have instead chosen to stand on biblical convictions.

2)  Their original decision was going to cause a big hit in their work. I am glad that this is now not going to happen. World Vision is making a big difference world wide and I am thrilled to see it continue.

World Vision has gotten it right and they have done it with humility and Christlikeness.

All of my experiences with Richard Stearns (reading his book, articles, and giving addresses) have been very positive. I believe him to be a solid brother in Christ. There will be a temptation to think he only did it because of money, but I think we owe Stearns the benefit of the doubt as a Christian brother.

Below I have posted their apology in full. (emphasis added by me)

Dear Friends,

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.

While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.

Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”

Sincerely in Christ,

Richard Stearns, President

Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board

 

Blogging Round Up :: Best of the Best

The Worldliness of World Vision’s new Hiring Policy by Kevin DeYoung 

The about face in World Vision’s hiring policy deserves comment both because their reasons for the switch will become terribly common and because the reasons themselves are so terrifically thin. Serving in a mainline denomination I’ve heard all the assurances and euphemisms before: “We still affirm traditional marriage. We aren’t taking sides. This is only a narrow change. We are trying to find common ground. This is about unity. It’s all about staying on mission.” But of course, there is nothing neutral about the policy at all. The new policy makes no sense if World Vision thinks homosexual behavior is a sin, which is, after all, how it views fornication and adultery. There are no allowances for their employees to solemnize other transgressions of the law of God.

To be sure, like many evangelical parachurch organizations, World Vision allows for diversity in millennial views, sacramental views, soteriological views, and any numbers of doctrinal issues which distinguish denomination from denomination. Stearns would have us believe that homosexuality is just another one of these issues, no different from determining whether the water in baptism can be measured by liters or milliliters. But the analogy does not work. Unlike the differences concerning the mode of baptism, there is no long historical record of the church debating whether men can marry men. In fact, there is no record of the church debating anything of the sort until the last forty or fifty years. And more to the point, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that getting the mode of baptism wrong puts your eternal soul in jeopardy, when there are plenty of verses to suggest that living in unrepentant sexual sin will do just that (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Jude 5-7).

On World Vision and the Gospel by Russell Moore

World Vision, an evangelical relief organization, announced today that they would now hire persons who are in same-sex marriages. The organization said, further, that this was no capitulation, just a recognition that some groups supporting World Vision have differing views on sex and marriage…

…We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace. And many will shrink back. There are no riots if the gospel you’re preaching doesn’t threaten the silversmiths of the Temple of Artemis. And there are no clucking tongues if the gospel you’re preaching isn’t offered to tax collectors and temple prostitutes.

World Vision and Why We Grieve For Children by Trevin Wax

Sex is our god. Children are our sacrifice.

So, yes, we grieve for the children across the world who will be adversely affected by World Vision’s decision and the evangelical response.

But we also grieve for children here at home who are growing up in a culture in which sexual idolatry distorts the meaning of marriage and the beauty of God’s original design.

Today is a day to grieve for the children.

Should Unborn babies Be Used To Heat Hospitals? by Mollie Hemingway

People are reacting to this story with the natural revulsion one feels for such callous treatment of humans, whether it’s evoking memories of crematoriums at concentration camps or promises made to mothers who miscarry about the treatment of their children who died.

But why are we in any way surprised? Once supposedly enlightened societies have decided that unborn children can be dismembered in the womb for any reason — in some particularly barbaric lands, this is permitted no matter how many months old the baby is — why should their bodies be treated with any respect whatsoever once they are removed from where they were gestating?

What is Marriage, According to the Bible? by Ray Ortlund 

Marriage is a gospel issue. That is the ultimate reason why clarity about its definition matters for our worship and witness. People who depart from, or fail to stand up for, the biblical view of marriage are taking a step away from the gospel itself. The whole Bible is the story of the marital love of God, as I demonstrate in this book. Our whole lives are that story, if we have eyes to see.

Marriage is more than human romance, wonderful as that is. Marriage is the display of Christ and his Bride in love together. A beautiful, tender, thriving, Ephesians 5-kind of marriage makes the gospel visible on earth, bringing hope to people who have given up believing there could be any love anywhere for them. That is why biblical marriage deserves our courageous loyalty today. And that is why, in our increasingly secular times, biblical marriage is under pressure. Its true meaning is understood and embodied and sustained only by the power of the gospel.

 Pastors Need Grace by Paul Tripp

On the way home from a ministry training weekend, my brother Tedd suggested that we should make the things we had learned practical to our personal lives. He then began to ask questions about my marriage.

As he asked, it was as if God was ripping down curtains, and I saw and heard myself with accuracy for the first time in years. Praise God for the specificity of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. As my eyes were open, I couldn’t believe what I had said and done. I was broken and grieved. It was hard for me to believe that that man that I was seeing was me. I couldn’t wait to get home.

When I entered my house that night, Luella could tell that something was up by my seriousness. I asked her if we could talk. After we sat down I said, “I know for years that you have been trying to talk to me about my anger and my failure to love you and the kids as I should, and I have been unwilling to listen. I can honestly say tonight that I am ready to listen. I want to hear.” I will never forget what happened next.

What Our Churches REALLY Need

I see it everywhere… Facebook, Twitter, blogs, commenters, and on and on… Everyone seems to know what our churches REALLY need. What is interesting about these declarations is how tribal they all are.

  • The Reformed tribe thinks what we REALLY need is a higher view of Scripture and God’s sovereignty. SURELY that would change everything.
  • The Donald Millerish tribe seems to think what we REALLY need is more “outside the box” thinking and new practices. (I mean, how else can we get in everyones learning style!)
  • The Social Justice tribe thinks we simply need to get away from dreaded dogma and save the world!
  • The theologically liberal tribe thinks we just need to get past these archaic beliefs of complementarianism and beliefs against homosexuality so we can have a “real impact.”
  • The Charistmatic tribe thinks if everyone would just really embrace the Holy Spirit then we could finally get somewhere!
  • The “organic” tribe thinks we just need to get rid of all these dang institutions!

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Most people who know me know what “tribe” I kind of belong to. With that said, I am not a fan of tribalism. The people who have influenced me the most cross many tribes and I am grateful for all of them. John Piper and NT Writght. Graeme Goldsworthy and Eugene Peterson. Hugh Halter and Charles Spurgeon.

I don’t know what our churches REALLY need in any definitive sense. If someone asked me, “What do you think our Churches really need?” I think I would simply say, “more of God?” That can’t be wrong, right?!

I know a few things we don’t need:

  • Pride in our tribalism and always pitting ourselves against one another.
  • Pride in our theology and thinking it is always them that are messing it up.
  • Pride in our practices and always calling out the others for not living it like we do.

I think what the church probably needs more than most the stuff I hear is, yeah, more of God, but also one another. Our tribalism certainly isn’t helping. It is okay to belong to a “tribe.” We do in fact have to have convictions that will resonate with one group of people more than another. I happily identify with people who have similar convictions to my own. What I refuse to do though is think they are the only people who I can learn from and the only people I can lock arms with.

There is a lost world out there. There is a lot to be learned. If we think we have all the answers and the problem is that everyone doesn’t listen to us we are not going to get anywhere, at all. It would help if we stopped talking so much about what we think churches REALLY need (which really is us saying what is wrong with everyone else) and started focusing on what my church, your church needs.

No church or tribe is perfect. I know I grow the most personally when I do some introspection, repentance, and seek to change. I don’t grow a lot when I spend a lot of time talking about the issues and problems of others.

We need to apply this same thing to how we relate to other churches and tribes outside of our own. A big dose of humility would go a really long way.

So, what do our churches REALLY need? I don’t really know… But I think if we listened to Jesus a little better and stopped pointing our specks while ignoring our own planks we would be off to a good start.

Justice and the Death of Fred Phelps

Westboro-Baptist-Church-Founder-Fred-Phelps-Has-Died

As most of you have heard Fred Phelps has died. Fred Whelps was the founder of the Westboro cult that centered around protests and a message of hate. Sadly, they functioned under the name of “church” and claimed they were doing the work of Jesus. Thankfully, everyone recognized them as a cult and no one seriously put them in the same group with evangelical churches.

A lot of Christians are wrestling with a difficult question in light of his death, “How should we feel about this?” Unless there was real repentance on his death bed (which we haven’t heard of anything like this) than our beliefs tell us that Fred Phelps will spend eternity in hell. While we believe all men deserve hell we do not wish anyone to go there. We get this from God’s very own heart in 2 Peter 3:9.

At the same time, we know that he was a very evil man. This is the same question we asked when Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden died. How should Christians feel and respond when very evil men die, bound for eternity in hell?

Typically, when this question is asked I see a lot of verses on the “we desire none to perish” side. What about the other side? Normally I read a lot of sentiment of, “Well, I can’t help but to be a little happy that he is dead. He was exceptionally evil and the world is much better off without him.”

I think there is a little more biblical precedence for our feelings of relief when a man like Fred Phelps dies. Think about imprecatory psalms: several psalms use the phrase, “may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.”

In Revelation 6 we get a picture of people who have been martyred for their faith crying out to God asking when he will avenge their blood and judge those who killed them. They were then given white robes and told to “rest” a little longer. It is clear they are anxiously waiting for justice to be carried out against those who did evil to them.

2 Thessalonians 1 tells us that God will grant relief to the saints from their suffering by making those who afflicted them suffer with eternal punishment. This passage even has this feel that the saints won’t feel full relief until that full justice has been carried out, when the Lord returns.

Why do I walk through that? We need to feel the freedom to have a sense of relief when God takes away evil men. There is no need to feel guilty for feeling relief in these situations. I think those biblical passages give us a strong precedent for these emotions. No, we do not want any man to perish and spend eternity in hell. We also do not want evil men to continue to inflict suffering on the saints and the world.

Let me be clear here: feeling relief and boasting exuberantly are two very different things. I do not think it is righteous to dance in the streets in celebration when someone like Hussein is killed. I do think it is righteous emotion to feel relief when God chooses to remove such evil men.

What I pray for in these situations:

  • While such evil men are alive (North Korea anyone) I pray for a radical salvation or that God will remove them swiftly and end the suffering they bring.
  • In light of their deaths I pray God will use it to display his goodness to humanity by displaying his perfect, righteous justice.
  • I pray that the church can use the opportunity to share the radical mercy of Jesus that no one is beyond saving and that even Fred Phelps could be justified by God through repentance and faith.
  • I pray that through the death a new day can dawn in whatever void is left by them. In Fred Phelps case I am praying the Westboro cult loses its fervor and starts getting out of the spotlight.
  • I pray for real, genuine salvation for his family and those most immediately affected by his death.