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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ever Had One of Those Days?

Janelle says that Mr. Spurgeon has a word for you.

The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching

My pastor buddy Eric Tober has published a book review in our EFCA Today magazine (pg 23, 2nd pg of the pdf) of a big book on preaching (720 pg). He gives The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching high marks. Sounds like one to check out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Template Tweak

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to add a few links and features to the side-bar.

I hope they increase the usefulness of this blog and spur us on into more Hot Orthodoxy.

Enjoy.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving



After the Lord and His Crosswork, the subjects of this picture are what I am most thankful for today (especially the one standing).

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Resources for Readying Teens for Launch

Best website right now for teens: TheRebelution.com.

Rebelution articles on:

What the Rebelution Is
"Kidults"
National Map of Rebelutionaries
Upcoming Rebelution Conferences

Best book on Growing Up Christian. Read the author's blog here.

Best book on parenting teens: Age of Opportunity.

Best audio resource on Parents, Teens, and Reasonable Expectations

Recent Time Magazine article on Bible-based youth ministry (instead of fun-based).

Best website for parents to help them help their kids navigate today's culture:

The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU)

CPYU Article: Dear Diary - Dear World (On the MySpace Phenomenon)

Sign Up for CPYU's E-Update

Walt Mueller of CPYU talks about 10 surprises about today's youth culture.

Good book on raising boys to manhood and getting them ready to launch: Boyhood and Beyond.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

John Calvin on Hot Orthodoxy

"Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart. . . . To doctrine in which our religion is contained we have given the first place, since by it our salvation commences; but it must be transfused into the breast, and pass into the conduct, and so transform us into itself, as not to prove unfruitful." - John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III. VI. 4.

[HT: JT & KP]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Matt's Messages - Ready to Launch

“Ready to Launch”

November 19, 2006

It’s time again for Church Family appreciation. Heather and I have designated November as Church Family Appreciation Month. We’re still dining off of gift-cards that many of you gave us last month, and very much appreciating your love for us. So we want to love on you.

Two weeks ago, we thanked you for your expressions of love and care for our family. Last week, we thanked you for loving the lost with the Gospel. And today, I want to thank you for loving those who are different from you.

I’m not sure altogether why, but many churches that believe the Bible like we do also have a problem with loving people who aren’t like us. But this church is famous for loving people who are different from one another.

Remember when the current crop of young adults were teenagers? And the hairdos? And the friends that got brought to church? In some places, there is this idea that you have to be cleaned up and buttoned down to be acceptable at church. But this church is not like that.

My favorite moment and most proud moment in ministry this year was Craig “Tiny” Older’s memorial service back in January. We had 30 or more bikers from his bike-club. And they didn’t look or dress or act or smell like many of us normally do. And you folks didn’t miss a beat! You loved them, made them dinner, made them feel welcome, and took care of them. I was so proud of you and still am.

A few weeks ago, at a family dinner, I saw a former drug user, an ex-con, and a state trooper standing at the sink washing dishes together and having a good old time! That is a picture of what the church should be. And I love it that our church is like that. I appreciate you.

Now, let’s get into our message for today.

This Fall, in our Home Improvement Series, we’ve been learning how to build our families on the Gospel. For most of September and October, we talked about the primary family relationship–the marriage.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the rest of the basic family: children and parenting.

Now today, we have reached the teen years. Those magical years of growing up between being a child and being an adult.

How would you describe the goal of the teen years?

If you are a young person in your teen years, what would you say is the God-given goal for this season of your life? It won’t be long until you are past these years, you know that? I know it seems like forever, but it will pass quickly.

If you are the parent of a teen, what would you say is the God-given goal for your parenting of your son or daughter in this season of their life? You won’t have them for much longer, you know that? I know it seems like forever, but it will pass quickly.

What is the goal for these teen years?

Well, I’m sure that there are a lot of ways to answer that question, but as I was thinking about it this week, it all boiled down to this for me: “Ready to Launch.”

If you are a teenager, God wants you to use this season of your life as a preparation season for launching into Christian adulthood.

And if you are a parent of a teen, your job right now is to get your son or daughter ready to launch into adulthood.

Not just to endure the tumultuous changes.
Not just to get through school and get a diploma.
Not just to survive white-knuckled through learning to drive and waiting up for them to get home.
Not just to wait for that driver’s license, or 18th birthday, or finally getting out of the house.

But to be ready to launch into independent, Christian adulthood.

That’s the goal.

I don’t think many parents, including Christian parents, have that goal firmly fixed in front of them.

I know that most teenagers don’t have that goal firmly fixed in front of them.

Becoming adults is what being a teenager is all about.

And for Christians, it’s not just being an adult by whatever definition you supply for that, but being a fully functional Christian adult–an independent, stand on your own disciple of Jesus Christ–that’s what you are getting ready for.

Ready to Launch.

I have less than a dozen years until my daughter turns 18.

Somebody said to me this week, “Oh to keep them young forever!”

I said, “I don’t know about that.”

And I thought, “I’ve got to focus now on getting her ready to launch. I’ve only got less than a dozen years until she turns 18. And I want her to be ready to launch before that.”

And if you are a teen already, you’re much closer to launching (or at least should be!) than Robin is.

So we have to get serious about getting ready.

Well, to go along with the rocket-ship theme, I have a countdown this morning of 10 pieces of counsel for teenagers to get ready to launch.

Parents, you are invited to listen in, and I’ll try to give you some ideas, as well, for how to help your teen to get ready to launch.

This first one is absolutely foundational. #10. DECIDE (NOW) TO BE A DISCIPLE.

Teens, you’ve got to make your Christian faith your own.

God has no grandchildren–you aren’t made acceptable to God by your parents being Christians.

You have to be a Christ-follower yourself.

And to be a disciple–a Christ-follower–requires not just to put your trust in the Cross and what Jesus did there, but to–by faith–follow Jesus in every area of your life.

You have to answer the question, “Am I going to follow Jesus with my life or not?”

The biggest mistake that I have seen Christian teens fall into for the last 11 years of pastoral ministry, is not getting the Lordship question answered.

“Am I going to trust Jesus as my Savior and my Lord?” So that everything in my life is submitted to Him.

The Bible calls that “the fear of the LORD.” And it is the beginning of wisdom.

Let’s read the first seven verses in Proverbs 1. It explains the point of the book which was in many ways a training manual for young men to get them ready to launch into life. Proverbs 1:1.

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life [what adulthood should be], doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young [teens]– let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance [Solomon is our guidance counselor]–for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.]

The fear of the LORD is to understand that God is God, and you are not. And it is to reverently trust Him as the Lord of the Universe and worshipfully submit yourself to His Kingly Lordship.

And the fear of the LORD is the beginning of getting ready to launch.

Parents, the #1 question that you have to get answered is the discipleship question:

Is my son or daughter a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?
Does my son or daughter see themselves as orienting their life around the Lord Jesus?

Not just, “Did they pray a prayer back when they were 7?”
Not just, “Do they call themselves Christians?”
Not just, “Do they dutifully go to church with me?”

But “is my son or daughter following the Lord Jesus Christ by faith?”

Do they have “the fear of the Lord?”

If they don’t, they aren’t ready to launch into Christian adulthood.

This sets the course for all of the rest. If you don’t hear anything else that I say, hear me say, “You must decide now to be a disciple.”

You will be a disciple of something or other. But only Jesus is worthy of all of your devotion for all of your life.

Go wrong here, and you will go wrong, period. But if you orient your life around the Lordship of Christ, you will experience blessing.

#9. REBEL AGAINST REBELLION.

Teens and parents of teens, your relationship does not need to be typical. It doesn’t have to be full of tension and conflict. It doesn’t have to be laden with rebellion and stress and fighting.

There is no law that says that teens must go through a rebellious stage.

That’s not in the Bible.

Instead, teens and their parents can experience the joy of the Family Dance that we talked about a few weeks ago in Ephesians 6.

Remember that? Teens obeying and honoring their parents. Parents not exasperating their teens but bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

If #10 is in place, and you are both submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Family Dance can be danced with teenagers.

I’ve seen it happen.

When I was a youth pastor, there was a delightful family named the Petersons. And the Petersons had 2 teenagers at that time, and I was their youth pastor.

And the oldest, Josh, he loved his dad and mom. With a vengeance! He just lavished honor on his folks. And they loved Him. And there wasn’t any rebellion in that household.

And it was a joy to behold. Josh is a youth pastor now.

Teens, you can buck the trend as followers of Jesus Christ and rebel against rebellion.

There is a great website that I can totally recommend to the teens in our church to check out. It’s call TheRebelution.com. Notice the interesting spelling.

This website is run by two twin brothers, Alex and Brett, that are 17 years old. They are actually, Joshua Harris’ brothers, so they come from a pretty interesting family already. They lead what they call the Rebelution which is a rebellion against teenage rebellion and a revolution in teens becoming mature Christ-followers.

They have tons of great stuff they’ve written and links to other rebelutionaries.

Alex writes, this website, “challenges you to throw off the shackles of what society expects of you. The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility. They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now.”

Parents, do you believe that your relationship with your teen does not have to be typical? It doesn’t have to be a war between you and them?

I highly recommend Paul Tripp’s book about parenting teens. It’s called Age of Opportunity. This is a season of getting them ready to launch. If you are both disciples, it doesn’t have to be a warzone.

Rebel Against Rebellion.

Teens, honor your Mom and Dad.

Let me tell you a secret. Don’t listen, Mom and Dad. If you consistently honor and obey your Mom and Dad, you will get more and more freedom until you won’t know what do with all the freedom you get!

If you consistently honor and obey your Mom and Dad, you will get more and more freedom until you launch out on your own.

Rebel Against Rebellion.

#8. FIND YOUR ID IN CHRIST.

Find your identity in Christ.

One of the major struggles that I see teens go through is the identity crisis.

“Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What does it mean to be me?”

Are you struggling with that question?

I did when I was a teen. I went through several different phases, some of them at the same time:

I was the happy to be a geek guy. I actually wore a pocket-protector to high school! For fun! For kicks!

I was also the band-guy. I was in symphonic band, concert, jazz band, choir, barbershop quintet, and marching band. I was the drum major for the marching band!

I was also a goody-two-shoes.

And I went through a black-trenchcoat phase.

And I did the going to dances and trying to get girlfriends thing for awhile.

On our vacation, I subjected my wife to going through one of my highschool yearbooks. And on every other page, I was reinventing myself. Who was I?

Here’s how to figure out who you are. Start with #10. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

And figure out what that means for every area of your life.

Start in and move out. The Bible uses this phrase “in Christ” at least 85 times to describe who you are if you are a disciple.

Get familiar with who God says you are, and you’ll figure out your ID really quickly.

Parents, you can help a lot here, not just by listening to what they are saying about who they are (and that’s big, do that!), but also by sharing what the Bible says about who they are in Christ.

#7. DON’T ♥ THE WORLD.

Now, I don’t mean don’t love the world like John 3:16, like God loves the world. We are to love people in the world with the love of Christ.

But I mean don’t love the world like 1 John 2:15 which says this, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”

That sounds a lot like popular culture to me.

The cravings of sinful man (TV commercials), the lust of his eyes (MTV and VH1), and the boasting of what he has and does (what everyone says about themselves on MySpace).

Do not love the world.

Worldliness is adopting the values of the unbelieving culture around us. And it is very hard to fight.

And it is especially hard if you are absorbing the media without discernment.

What are you watching?
What are you listening to?
What are you playing?

What DVDs, mp3s, CDs, and video games are you taking in?

Those things are shaping your mind and heart in significant ways.

And the amount of the world that you take in will affect whether or not you are ready to launch.

Parents, you need to be monitoring and, when necessary, protecting your teen from the pervasive forces of the world that are trying to get into their mind and heart.

For example, this is your choice (not in the Bible), but I think it is utter folly for a teen to have a television in their own room–unless you think that they are almost ready to launch.

It’s like inviting the world into your teen’s bedroom. “Here, have him!”

But, protecting isn’t good enough, is it?

That doesn’t get them ready to launch!

You’ve got to teach and train them how to navigate pop culture and the media and use biblical principles to discern it.

You can’t just protect. You’ve got to help them know how to navigate it themselves.

I know that this strikes a chord with most teens. “Hands off my music!”

Teens, ask yourself this question. Does my Lord want me to be listening to this?

Am I loving Jesus by listening to, watching, or playing with this?
Or am I loving the world?

Countdown #6. SAVE SEX (ALL OF IT) FOR MARRIAGE.

This one doesn’t surprise anyone. Teens have hormones.

Listen, sex is for adulthood and marriage.

Sex is really good. Remember my sermon on Song of Songs that you giggled your way through a month ago? Sex is really good.

God came up with sex. Think about that for a while. Sex is God’s good idea. I’m really glad He came up with it.

But sex is for marriage like fire is for a fireplace. In the fireplace, fire is great and hot and delightful.

But a fire in the middle of the living room is destructive.

Save your fire for your fireplace.

Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

I know that the world and your friends all send very different messages on this one.

But God sends a very clear message. And you are a disciple.

Save sex (all of it, I know that a lot of kids are doing everything but intercourse and don’t think that it is really sex because you can’t get pregnant, but it is sex—and save it all) for marriage. You will be glad and your spouse will be glad.

I pray at least weekly for Robin’s husband. And one of the things I pray is that he will have kept himself pure for her.

Parents, I don’t have to tell you that it’s your responsibility to protect them and train them in this area.

I know that a lot of parents out there, leave it up to the school or the culture, though. We must be vigilant. And if we have to be, we must be unpopular with our children, sex is a powerful force that can’t be played with.

Teens, sex is for marriage. If you aren’t ready for marriage, you aren’t ready for sex. It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.

#5. SEEK WISDOM.

It’s easy when you are young to think that you know it all. But that is the mark of foolishness. Wise youth seek out wisdom from wise adults.

The first few chapters of Proverbs have this as the theme: “Get wisdom.”

Listen to Proverbs 4:5

“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Man, that sounds good, doesn’t it?

I want that for our teens. May we have the wisest teens in the area.

To do that, it involves humbling yourself.

It take admitting you don’t have all the answers.

But “esteem [wisdom], and she will exalt you; embrace [wisdom], and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Now, wisdom can be defined as the art of applying truth.

So, it’s not just Bible knowledge (but you have to get that!), and it’s not just a biblical worldview (but you need that, too), and it’s not just devotional reading (but you should develop a habit of Bible reading and prayer), it’s the ability to apply what you are learning to your every day life–that’s what you’ve got to do. Connect truth with life.

I try to provide you with a healthy dose of wisdom every Sunday.

What are you doing with that every week? Do you listen? Do you apply?

Get wisdom.

Parents, you need to be wise to get your child ready to launch. Are you getting wisdom?

Often, we, as parents, want to spout our wisdom. But we need to make sure that we are also humbling ourselves and learning and applying–not just spouting.

Seek wisdom.

Countdown #4. BE CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR COMPANIONS.

1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character.”

Who are your friends? Who is influencing you?

I can hear you now, “Houston, we have a problem. Pastor Matt is meddling with my friends.”

You need to make your choices about friends based on your disciple relationship with
Jesus Christ.

Would Jesus have you be the kind of friend you are with the kind of friends you have?

Now, I’m not saying that you don’t act as some kind of a friend to various people.

But what kind of a friendship are you developing?

Let me ask it this way. Whom is influencing whom?

And what kind of an influence are they?

If you are tuning me out because I’m saying this, are you (Proverbs 1:7), “despising wisdom and discipline?”

Parents, you need to be monitoring the friendships that your teen has and helping them to think through them biblically.

When they are younger, you can choose their friends for them to some degree. As they get older, you have to help them to choose them wisely. Because friends are big influence.

This is where I need to say something about MySpace and Xanga and Blogger and other relational networking websites.

I’ve seen a number of our young people have MySpace pages or Xanga pages. And they are very revealing of what is going on in the mind and heart and relationships of our teens. I’ve read a number of them. Many of them are public. They are broadcasting their relationships and interactions on the web.

Parents, you should be reading your teens’ web journaling activity–especially as it relates to your kids’ friends.

Getting to the end. #3. DO HARD THINGS.

I get this from the Harris twins and their “rebelution.”

They point out that teens can do a lot more than society thinks of them.

Teens can take responsibility, can work hard, can achieve amazing things when they put their mind to it.

And that is great training for being an adult.

Get a job. Create a business. Organize a youth outing. Don’t be passive or lazy, instead, lead. Act. Do hard things.

The opposite is something the Harris twins call “adultescence,” which is the Peter Pan Syndrome. “I’ll never grow up.” 27 year olds living with Mom and Dad never going anywhere. They call them "kidults."

There was a movie about that this year. What was it called? “Failure to Launch.”

Do hard things.

All of the teens in the Bible did.

Name some famous teens in the Bible.

We don’t know exactly how old they all were, but I’m guessing at least these:

David the Shepherd who killed a lion and a bear before he killed a giant.

Daniel the Prophet who stood up to the King of the Superpower of the World and looked lions in the mouth.

Esther who approached the King without being summoned.

And Mary who bore the Christ child and all of the scorn of her community.

They did hard things. You can to.

Parents, what hard things can you call your child to?

That will get them ready to launch.

Countdown #2. BE A MISSIONARY–RIGHT NOW!

You don’t have to wait until you grow up to share the gospel with your community.

On Wednesday nights, I meet with a group of 5 young men for Bible study, prayer, memorization, and discipleship.

And one of them, when we took prayer requests this week, said, “Let’s pray that we are ready to share the Gospel when we need to.”

I was totally impressed. That’s being a missionary right now.

Some of you may be called to be a missionary overseas someday. You know who goes there? The ones who have a proven track record here.

Your schools are full of lost people who need the Gospel. Are you going to stand up for Jesus and share Him with them?

I was totally encouraged last week when we had so many teens show up with rakes and smiles to serve in our leaf raking OUTReach Sunday afternoon.

Colossians 4 is talking to you when it says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

I can’t wait to do a baptism for someone you teens have led to Christ. If you do that, they will be eternally grateful! And you will be ready to launch.

Countdown #1. BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.

You might have wondered how I was going to get it in there.

Not only do we need to believe the gospel (#10) to become disciples at the beginning of the Christian race, but we need to believe the Gospel every day all day.

It’s not just the way we start the Christian life, it’s the way we live the Christian life.

Parents, you need to keep the Gospel front and center in your parenting. Parent towards the heart–not just behavior. Don’t be a legalist parent. Be an evangelist parent.

Parents, you need to keep the gospel in front of you. Because you are a sinner in need of a Savior, too.

Your parenting will be flawed. But we have a mighty, mighty Savior to redeem our parenting and give us grace to go on.

And we need to hold out the gospel to our teens.

And teens, you need to know the gospel inside and out. Not just to share it, but to live off of it.

I recommend reading C.J. Mahaney’s “Living the Cross-Centered Life.” Again, if you already have!

Like Paul, I want to “remind you of the gospel...which you have received and on which you have taken your stand...” It is of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

And when you have internalized the Gospel, you are ready to launch.

“Houston, we have lift-off!”

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pastoral Visitation

On Tuesday, my regional group of EFCA pastors is going to talk about congregational care.

One of my questions for us to discuss is: "What is the role of the pastor in congregational care? For example, how much time should vocational elders devote to shepherding through visitation?"

I expect various answers to that question. Should be interesting.

If elders (vocational or otherwise) are going to do visitation, here are a series of posts on how to do it well.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Don't Get Caught in the Web

Here's an interesting article on Internet Addiction.

If you should be doing something other than reading this, go do it.

Hot Orthodoxy recommends books over blogs and people over pixels.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Resources on Boys & Girls

For Boys Especially

Audio:

Audio of Show Yourself a Man by Randy Stinsoon (fee)

Articles:

Show Yourself a Man by Randy Stinson

For Guys Only: the Marks of Manhood by Albert Mohler

How I Have Helped My Boys to Become Christian Men by Vern Poythress

Books:

God's Wisdom for Little Boys by Jim & Elizabeth George

Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis


For Girls Especially

Books:

Girl Talk by Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre

Fearlessly Feminine by Jani Ortlund

Biblical Womanhood in the Home edited by Nancy DeMoss [Read in .pdf here.]

Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney

Growing Little Women by Donna Miller

Blogs:

Girl Talk Blog


For Both:

Audio:

Audio: Similarities and Differences by Wayne Grudem (free)

Books:

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Especially chapter 1 (A Vision of Complementarity, also published as What's the Difference?) and chapter 17 (Rearing Masculine Boys and Feminine Girls) [In pdf format here.]

Point Man Chapter 9 (How to Raise Masculine Sons and Feminine Daughters)

Websites:

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Matt's Messages - Boys & Girls

“Boys & Girls”
November 12, 2006

As I said last week, Heather and I have decided that November is Church Family Appreciation Month. You got to appreciate us in October. We appreciate you this month.

Last week, we appreciated the way that you take good care of our family. This week, I’d like to appreciate the way that you work together as a team to do evangelism.

When this church puts their heads together and decides to reach out in a concerted effort into the community with the gospel of Jesus Christ–it’s a delightful wonder to behold.

All I have to say is words like: JESUS Video Project, Wild West Day, Lew Sterrett at the Clearfield County Fair, Family Bible Week, and new this Summer: West Branch Community Days.

And while we have a long way to go in our evangelistic outreach as a church, it is a real joy to lead you as your pastor when you are so concerned about the lost that you work together to reach out into the community with the gospel. We appreciate that about you. Gospel/Evangelical is your middle name.

I invite you to open up your Bibles with me to Genesis chapter 1, Pew Bible Page #2.

I want to talk this morning about “Boys & Girls.”

In our Home Improvement Series, we have moved from the primary family relationship–the marriage–into the other important members of the Christian family, the children.

Last week, we studied Ephesians 6:1-4 and talked about what I called: “The Family Dance,” children obeying and honoring their parents, their parents (fathers especially) not exasperating but bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Those are the basic family dynamics that can fill our homes with joy.

I could go on an on about them for weeks.

But today, I want to talk about the differences between boys and girls and the trajectories of manhood and womanhood that we want to be sending them on.

You do know that there is a difference between boys and girls, don’t you?

You bet there is!

But there is also a lot of confusion in our world about gender, as well.

A few weeks ago I read this from the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Park Day School is throwing out gender boundaries.

Teachers at the private Oakland elementary school have stopped asking the children to line up according to sex when walking to and from class. They now let boys play girls and girls play boys in skits. And there's a unisex bathroom.

Admissions director Flo Hodes is even a little apologetic that she still balances classes by gender.

Park Day's gender-neutral metamorphosis happened over the past few years, as applications trickled in for kindergartners who didn't fit on either side of the gender line. One girl enrolled as a boy, and there were other children who didn't dress or act in gender-typical ways. Last year the school hired a consultant to help the staff accommodate these new students.

‘We had to ask ourselves, what is gender for young children?’ Hodes said. ‘It's coming up more and more.’

Park Day's staff members are among a growing number of educators and parents who are acknowledging gender variance in very young children. Aurora School, another private elementary school in Oakland, also is seeing children who are ‘gender fluid’ and hired a clinical psychologist to conduct staff training.” [HT: Al Mohler]

This, brothers and sisters, is deeply disturbing.

And the fundamental answer for this disturbing problem is on the first page of the Bible. Genesis 1:27.

God has made all of the rest of creation and is ready to create the crowning apex of His masterpiece. And He makes humankind. Genesis 1:26

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ [Here’s our verse:] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” [NIV]

Genesis 1:27: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Notice: only one human race, equal in dignity and worth created together in the image of God.

Notice: only one human race, but created by God in two different complementary genders: male and female, man and woman, boy and girl.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Isn’t it interesting how often we return to Genesis when we are talking about the family? It all starts here, doesn’t it?

On a fundamental level, boys and girls are created the same. Both in the image and likeness of God.

But also on a fundamental level, boys and girls are created differently. And everyone is either one or the other.

And it’s completely confusing to children to not help them to understand that!

On a fundamental level, boys and girls are created the same. Both in the image and likeness of God.

But also on a fundamental level, boys and girls are created differently. And everyone is either one or the other.

Now, that fundamental similarity and yet difference is not only in creation but also in redemption.

Male and female are saved the same way through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28), but they also reflect their salvation in different ways as they mature in Christ.

A godly man and a godly woman are not the same thing!

God tells us what a godly man looks like in the pages of His word.

And He also tells us what a godly woman looks like.

And while they have similarities, they also have real differences.

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

And that’s still the plan.

Now, why do I bring this up during a series on the Christian Family?

Here’s why:

Christian Parents, we must raise our boys in the direction of godly manhood.

And, Christian Parents, we must raise our girls in the direction of godly womanhood.

Fundamentally the same and yet fundamentally different.

Fundamentally the same in godliness and fundamentally different in gender-ness.

Now, what does it mean to raise our boys to be godly men and to raise our girls to be godly women?

What does that look like?

Well, it’s hard to summarize and hard to take you to just one passage of scripture to get the whole picture.

But at the risk of oversimplification, I want to suggest one word for each gender to summarize the biblical distinctives of godly masculinity and godly femininity.

First, I want encapsulate biblical masculinity with the word: RESPONSIBILITY.

In the amazing book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (pdf version here), John Piper has this definition: “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”

Now that is a carefully thought-through summary of the biblical data.

“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”

Responsibility, especially here, in leading, providing, and protecting.

That should be at the top of our lists in parenting boys.

What Dr. Dobson calls “Bringing Up Boys.”

The main thing we need to be teaching them is to assume responsibility for leading, providing, and protecting women in ways appropriate to their differing relationships.

Turn with me to 1 Kings chapter 2. Pew Bible Page #327.

King David was about to die. So, he called in his son, Solomon, who was soon going to be king. What do you think he wanted to tell him?

If you were a dying man with a last chance to talk to your boy, what would you want to say?

1 Kings chapter 2, verse 1.

“When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth,’ he said. ‘So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: 'If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'”

How about that for your last words from your dad? “Be strong, show yourself a man!”

That “be strong” is strong in courageous character.

And “showing manhood” was his taking responsibility to obey God’s laws and to lead, protect, and provide.

In the next section, Solomon is given orders to bring justice into his kingdom and to protect and provide for those who need it.

Solomon was being given a great responsibility and was told, “Show yourself a man.” [See Randy Stinson's excellent article on this.]

Responsibility.

Now, the word, I have picked out for godly femininity is one that I actually made up myself: RESPONSIVITY.

And by that I mean responsiveness.

John Piper defines biblical femininity this way: “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

Now, that’s a mouthful, but it’s very helpful. I’ll read it again.

“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

I call it responsivity and it comes, in large part, from Genesis chapter 2.

Do you remember what God said when He decided to make Eve?

He said (Genesis 2:18), “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

A helper. Now, that may not sound like much, but that same word is used in the rest of the Old Testament for God Himself when He comes to be the Helper of Israel.

It’s a very important role to play to help someone, to be supportive, to aid.

Responsivity.

Carolyn Mahaney (C.J.’s wife) writes in her first-rate book Girl Talk [Visit her blog by the same name], “As women, we have been specially equipped to provide strategic, effective, and valuable help and aid to those around us. We are God’s handpicked support staff for creation. When we operate and serve in a supportive role, we will experience the joy of fulfilling God’s design.”

That’s really good. “God’s handpicked support staff for creation!”

Responsivity.

Notice, of course, women carry responsibilities!
And men are called to some kinds of responsiveness.

But there is a special role of responsibility that God has hard-wired into manhood.

And there is special role of responsivity that God has soft-wired into womanhood.

And, Christian parents, our job is to raise our boys into that kind of leadership and our girls into that kind of supportiveness.

Now, I’m concerned about this enough to have give a whole sermon to it because I think there is a lot of confusion about gender out there and that biblical manhood and womanhood isn’t on the radar screen of a lot of parents.

It needs to be on our radar screen.

We must raise our boys in the direction of godly manhood.

And we must raise our girls in the direction of godly womanhood.

Now, how do we do it? What are the strategies?

I’ve got four points of application this morning.

#1. MODEL IT FOR THEM.

We need to be examples of biblical manhood and womanhood for our kids.

Let me ask you a question.

Guys, what kind of a man do you want your son to be?

Be that kind of a man. He’s watching.

My son, Drew, has told me that he wants to be a godly man like me.

I want to be a godly man so that he knows what that is!

Now, let me ask you another question.

What kind of man do you want your daughter to marry?

Be that kind of man. She’s watching.

I know that the most powerful thing I’m doing in shaping whom my daughter will marry is loving and leading her mother.

The same is true for you, ladies.

What kind of a woman do you want your daughter to become?

Be that kind of a woman. She’s watching.

What kind of a woman do you want your sons to marry?

Be that kind of a woman. They are watching.

I have great hopes for whom my boys will marry because they have a Proverbs 31 woman in their home and will have high expectations for the qualifications they are going to be looking for.

We must model it.

Where do you need work in biblical manhood or womanhood?

What are you doing to “show yourself a man” or develop your “support staff” nurturing role?

This Fall, I’ve been convicted of my need to keep my domain in order. I’ve set a bad example for my boys in having a messy desk, a messy shed, no hubcaps on my mini-van, and a lawn that looks like a jungle.

A godly man takes responsibility and rejects passivity in his domain. So I’ve been coming up with lists of things to do around the house and knocking them out one at a time.

I know that my wife appreciate them. But one of the main reasons I’m doing it is because I know that my boys are watching.

#2. TEACH IT TO THEM.

Biblical manhood and womanhood are biblical subjects that we need to teach to our children.

For guys, I recommend 3 major places to go.

First, study the kings of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles and pull out all of the principles and lessons on manhood that you see there.

Second, go to the Proverbs. The proverbs were written from men to men about how to be men. They are probably the most manly part of Scripture there is.

Solomon keeps saying, “My son, do this. My son, don’t do that.” Great counsel.

And the third place is the pastoral letters: 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. There we have young pastor-types receiving instruction about how to lead and what to look for in character traits for men.

When I was in college, I wrote out the character traits of 1 Timothy chapter 3 on the side of a box on a shelf in my room and looked at it every day of my college life.

It says this, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, [a one-woman man], temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.”

Teach that to your boy.

Have him memorize it. And say that this is the goal. With the exception of the gifting of “apt to teach” all of this is just the godly character it takes to be a leader in God’s family.

At our home every night after a family prayer and some singing, we split up into a different groupings for “Bible stories.”

I take the older two kids and read them a Bible story on Robin’s bed.

And then I take Drew into my room and we kneel beside the bed and talk about a Bible story, what’s going on in Drew’s life, and what it means to be a godly man.

Drew loves it. And we have one particular book by Jim and Elizabeth George that has a picture with a different godly manhood trait depicted on each page--God's Wisdom for Little Boys. Drew has the thing about memorized.

And then after Drew is done, it’s Peter’s turn. And then I pray for Isaac.

And I’m trying to teach them what godly manhood is from the pages of Scripture.

For the ladies, I recommend 3 other major places to go.

The first is the Old Testament women who hoped in God. Sarah, Ruth, Abigail, Esther, etc. Notice how they go about what they do.

The second is Proverbs 31. Many books have been written about how that passage teaches women how to be women who fear the Lord.

And the third is the Pastoral Letters! [Interesting how that works, huh?] There is a lot of instruction in those letters about what ladies are supposed to be like.

The biggest one is Titus chapter 2. Turn there with me. Pew Bible page #1181.

Paul tells Titus what to teach different people in church that he is serving. And he is supposed to teach the older women certain things that they are supposed [what?] pass on.

Titus 2:4, “Then [the older women] can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

There’s your curriculum, ladies. Teach your girls that.

Model it. And then teach it to them.

Notice what it says is the goal of teaching your girls to be biblical women like that:

“So that no one will malign the word of God.”

This is a gospel issue. Biblical manhood and womanhood either confirms or distorts the gospel.

So we must model it for them.
And we’ve got to teach it to them.
But that’s not enough.

We’ve got to train it into them.

#3. TRAIN IT INTO THEM.

It’s not enough to just talk about it with our kids. We’ve got to put practices in place that develop biblical manhood and womanhood in our kids’ lives.

Now, these practices are going to vary from family to family and culture to culture.

For example, guys might design a way of using hunting and fishing and four-wheeling to teach our boys about biblical manhood.

And ladies might design a way of using crafts or relationships or clothing to teach our girls about biblical womanhood.

Not that girls don’t like hunting or boys don’t like relationships. But there are often culturally advantageous ways of training this stuff into our kids.

Robert Lewis in his excellent little book Raising a Modern Day Knight recommends the establishing of what he calls, “Manhood Ceremonies” to train boys into manhood.

There used to be a lot of those sorts of things. But now there aren’t. He recommends creating our own.

One that we do is that when I go away for a meal, my oldest son, Andrew, is in charge of the prayer at meals. He is the man of the house. And he’ll pray or ask someone else to pray at meals just like Daddy does.

He has to totally respect his mother and obey her as his mother at the table, but because this is his job, she defers to him unless he’s being foolish and he leads her in prayer at the table.

That’s a practice, a small one, but I hope for it to yield great dividends in biblical manhood in my son.

The key with training is to ask your son or daughter to do something that is appropriate for their calling before God and then to hold them accountable for it and encourage them when they do it.

That’s a big part of it. Encouraging them.

And blessing them.

Especially with your presence.

And this is especially true for dads.

Be there. Be involved. Be in their lives. Know what’s going on.

I guarantee that 99 out of a 100 boys and girls who don’t know whether or not they are boys or girls, there is a dad who is not in the picture, at least in the way that he should be.

Dad’s, here’s a way to train it into them.

Take your girls on dates.

Why should they go out with a boy when they are 14 and won’t get married to him anyway?

Teach them what a date should be like (minus the romance), by dating your girls. From the time they are 4 or 5 on.

Training isn’t just guys training guys and gals training gals. Moms, you are one of the most important people in your sons’ lives.

You have an opportunity to shape a leader. Don’t miss it.

Model It For Them.
Teach It To Them.
Train It Into Them.

And #4. PRAY IT FOR THEM.

Because like everything else in this crazy thing called the Christian family, it’s God’s work. If anything good happens, it’s because God has done it.

Pray for biblical manhood and womanhood for your boys and girls.

Part of that prayer may be prayers of repentance.

Perhaps you’ve not been trying to direct your boy towards biblical manhood with all of the responsibility of leadership, provision, and protection wrapped up in it.

Perhaps you’ve not been trying to direct your girl towards biblical womanhood with all of the responsivity of supporting, submitting, and nurturing bound up in it.

You’ve been following the world’s pattern for boys and girls which is whatever seems right to someone at the time.

You know, the gospel addresses us even here.

Jesus died for our failures in parenting our kids in the way that they should go.

And Jesus came back to life to give us the power to pick up right where are and move forward and do what we can now.

There is grace and mercy at the Cross.

And there is grace and power at the Empty Tomb.

Power to raise our boys, while we have them, to be godly men who lead responsibly.

And power to raise our girls, while we have them, to be godly women who support responsively.

And when we do, the “word of God is not maligned” (Titus 2:5).

The Gospel gives us the forgiveness and the power to raise our boys and girls.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Contemporary Application of 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Russell Moore's wise, loving, and obedient prayer:

Nancy Pelosi is My Prayer Partner.

[HT: JT]

Resources for the Family Dance

Here's a limited list of recommended parenting resources (more later):


Websites:

The Family Room (New Ministry of Covenant Life Church, excellent so far)

Family Life Parenting Channel (Nearly always good counsel)

Focus on the Family Parenting Channel (Sometimes more psychology than I recommend.)


Recording Downloads:

Kenneth Maresco Parenting Seminar (Free!)

C.J. Mahaney's Gospel Centered Parenting (Small Fee)


Good Books:


Shepherding a Child's Heart

Don't Make Me Count to Three

Grace Based Parenting

Family Worship by Donald S Whitney (Booklet)


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Now This Is Funny

I usually don't go for "forwarded" emails that have travelling jokes. But this one got me not only to laugh, but to snort. It was titled simply: "Stress."

"I am not sure exactly how it works, but this is amazingly accurate. Read the full description before looking at the picture.

The picture below has 2 identical dolphins in it. It was used in a case study on stress levels at St. Mary's Hospital.

Look at both dolphins jumping out of the water. The dolphins are identical. A closely monitored, scientific study revealed that, in spite of the fact that the dolphins are identical, a person under stress would find differences in the two dolphins. The more differences a person finds between the dolphins, the more stress that person is experiencing.

Look at the photograph and if you find more than one or two differences you may want to take a vacation."

Quotable Quotes

On parenting:

"It doesn't matter how long your fuse is, your child will find the end of it."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Matt's Messages - The Family Dance

“The Family Dance”
November 5, 2006
Ephesians 6:1-4

Last week, I announced that this Sunday begins Church Family Appreciation Month. Last month was Pastor Appreciation. This month, we get to appreciate you!

Today, I want to begin by appreciating how you take care of your pastor’s family. We feel very loved and cared for. Not only do you pay us a good salary and provide benefits for us like time off, hospitalization, study week, and conference expenses, but many of you are always on the lookout for what you can do give grace to our family. Thank you.

One practical expression of this, that came to mind this week, was the first Saturday in February 2002. All day Friday, Heather had been putting our things in boxes. In the morning, we woke up in our home in Bigler and started getting ready for the day. Robin was one and a half. Drew was two months old.

At about 9am, the LEFC Swat-Team came swooping down on our home. 15 pick-up trucks (literally!) showed up and carted off all of our stuff to the new home we’d had built in Lanse. Blair Murray rode in the back of a pick-up truck with our old blakc piano hanging over the end with almost nothing holding it in.

I was the last to leave the Bigler house. When I arrived in Lanse, almost all of our stuff was unpacked, in cupboards. Furniture arranged in the living room. Beds and cribs set up in rooms. And Michele Kephart had made everybody lunch at the church. We moved our entire life in 3 hours. Actually, you moved our entire belongings in three hours.

We appreciate you and all that you have done over the last 8.5 years to make us feel at home here and taken care of our family.

Speaking of family, that’s what we’re talking about this Fall with our Home Improvement series. The first half of our series dealt with the primary family relationship–the marriage. And it should be the primary family relationship! If we are growing in the areas that we dealt with in September and October, the rest of the family relationships are going to go so much smoother!

Now starting today, we’re going to begin to talk about the rest of the nuclear family: children and parents together in what I call “The Family Dance.”

I invite you to open your Bibles to the Letter to the Ephesian Church. We’re back to Ephesians this morning. Ephesians chapter 6 (that’s on Pew Bible Page #1159). Ephesians chapter 6, the first 4 verses.

If you remember a few weeks ago, we looked at chapter 5 verses 22 through 33 which is about the primary family relationship–marriage. Now, Paul turns to the rest of the family: children together with their parents, and he gives some vital instruction to both parties.

I call it “The Family Dance.”

I don’t know if your family likes to dance, but ours does. We like to pull back the furniture in the living room, crank up some Steven Curtis Chapman and get silly with dancing together. Well, that is: Robin, Drew, Peter, Isaac, and I do. Sometimes, we have a hard time getting Mommy onto the dance floor!

But we really enjoy grabbing hands and dancing around in a circle and then showing each other our cool moves. It’s a real sight, I’ll tell you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a demonstration!

But it takes more than one person to dance, doesn’t it? Have you ever tried to dance with someone who just stands there? It’s not a lot of fun.

In this passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul lays out several steps for both parties–children and their parents–to dance together.

The Family Dance, step #1 is for children.

CHILDREN, OBEY YOUR PARENTS IN THE LORD.

Kids, are you paying attention?

Look down at v.1 of chapter 6. There is one thing commanded of you by God in v.1. What is it? What are children supposed to do in relationship to their parents? Somebody yell it out....

That’s right. OBEY. V.1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Christian children are called by God to obey their parents.

Now, let me ask you a trick question. See how close you are paying attention to the Bible. What do you think are the 3 most important words in v.1? What are the 3 most important words in verse 1? Kids, what do you think?

You might guess that the words, “Obey your parents” are the most important because they tell you WHAT to do and to WHOM. You are to do what Mom and Dad say. When they give you some instructions, you are to carry them out. “Obey your parents.” You know what that means. But those three words (as important as they are as words of God) are not the most important. The three most important words are “in the Lord.” Because “in the Lord” tells us WHY and HOW to obey. That’s the most important thing you can know about this command!

Christian children are called to obey their parents IN THE LORD.

Now, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that you are only to obey your parents if they are Christians. Some of your parents are probably not Christians. But “in the Lord” does not mean only if they are “in the Lord.”

I think that “in the Lord” means at least 2 things:

First, obey BECAUSE of the Lord. And second, obey LIKE you would the Lord. Obey because of the Lord and obey like you would the Lord.

Does that make sense? Are you still with me, kids?

Who is “the Lord?”

“The Lord” is the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants you to obey your parents. So, if you believe in Jesus BECAUSE of that, you are called to obey your parents.

Now, I can imagine that some of you don’t like to do the dishes or take out the garbage or clean your room or put away your toys or go to bed or limit your phone-time or turn off the television when asked. [Anyone here like that?] But when Mom or Dad says it’s time to do that, God is asking you to remember what He has commanded of you.

If you are “in the Lord,” then He wants you to obey them. Don’t give them a hard time about it. Do it. They are in charge. Not because they are bigger and stronger (or better) but because God has placed them in a position of authority over you. So, obey IN THE LORD.

Second, “in the Lord” means LIKE YOU WOULD the Lord. Imagine if Jesus Himself showed up and asked you to take out the garbage. Would you? I hope so! If you don’t think you would, then you don’t really know who Jesus is yet!

Let’s think for a second about how you would obey the Lord.

You’d do it at least three ways: immediately, completely, and cheerfully.

Anything less is not really obedience.

That’s what it means to obey IN THE LORD. It means to treat your parents like you would treat Jesus: immediately, completely, cheerfully. Is that always easy? No. But God will help you to do it if you remember that you are IN THE LORD.

Kids, notice the last phrase of this verse. God says, “obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”

To obey is the right thing to do. That’s how God has designed the family.

It’s kind of like an army. Imagine if the Army didn’t have a design and structure. If there were no commanding officers. And so when the soliders are running through the forest with guns nobody is in charge. And one would yell, “Shoot over there!” And someone else would yell back, “No, I don’t want to! Shoot over here!” And somebody else yelled, “No, I don’t want to! Shoot over here!” Do you think they would ever win a battle? Never. They might not even survive!

That’s one of the reasons why God has made families this way. He puts someone in charge of the family so that they can win spiritual battles for Him. And parents are the commanding officers of the family.

So in the family dance, step #1 is for children to obey their parents in the Lord (because of the Lord and like you would the Lord: immediately, completely, and cheerfully).

Now, in vv.2&3, God gives a second step to kids. Really, He’s pointing out that the first command (obedience) is part of a bigger command that God gave way back in the 10 Commandments. Obeying is a part of honoring. And not just young children are called to honor. Children who still live at home are called to obey. All children are called to honor.

STEP #2. CHILDREN, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER. Vv.2&3.

“`Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–`that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”

This is a quote from Exodus 20:12. To honor someone means to value, to prize, to make someone big, to enlarge their reputation, to give them respect and appreciation and esteem and dignity and status and consideration.

I like to boil honor down to 5 words that I think encapsulate the actions and attitudes that reflect honor.

Honor = Obey + Respect + Thank + Love + Care

We already talked about obey for young children living in their parent’s home.

“Respect” means to recognize your parents’ unique position in your life and treat them with the esteem and value and consideration due them.

It especially comes out in the way that you talk about them to others. Guys, how do you talk about your father to your friends? Are you always complaining? Or talking them up? Ladies, what are you doing to your Mother’s reputation? Are you enhancing it with your friends or poking fun at her and hurting her in their eyes. Respect. In September, my friend Dan Ledford had our Uth honor their parents at Uth night by saying something that they really appreciated about their folks (and vice versa). That was honoring.

“Thank” is obvious. But often overlooked. When was the last time you honored your parents with a “Thank-You” for what they’ve done well?

“Love” means to actively seek their best. Show affection for them. Hug your Dad, he’ll love it! Kiss your Mom, she’ll love it! Tell them about your love for them. And not just “Love ya!” “I love you. Look them in the eye.” They will be honored.

“Care” is when it flips over the other way. You are now stronger, more able to get around, more financially free, but they need you to honor them by taking care of them. Fix what needs done around the house. Mow their lawn!

I’ve seen my mom doing this now with her aging parents, my grandparents. It is a real honor for my grandparents to be cared for by my Mom and her brothers.

God calls us to honor our parents.

And Paul points out that this commandment came with a promise. I love it when God does this. He calls us to honor and then tells us what things are going to happen when we do. And you can sum it up with one word: blessing.

EXPECT BLESSING WHEN YOU HONOR YOUR FOLKS.

Look at v.3. It’s the promise:

“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Now, I admit when I read this, I thought of Bill Cosby’s famous line, “Son, I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!” In other words, Paul is saying that your folks won’t kill you if you honor them!

But God isn’t talking so much about how our parents will treat us, as how He will treat us if we obey His commands for us.

God promises quality and (to some extent) quantity of life for those who honor their parents.

Sometimes it’s hard to honor our parents. I know stories about children from dysfunctional families where alcohol and abuse have reigned that have had to overcome great odds to even admit that someone is their father or mother. Maybe your parents have been a disappointment to you in some major way. But God is bigger than those disappointments. They are holding you back, but God is calling you forward–to honor (obey, respect, thank, love, care for) your parents. And when you do, there is blessing on the way.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Kids, how are you going to apply this truth this week?

If you are a kid living in your parents’ home right now, maybe you want to focus on some aspect of obedience that you have been falling down on recently. Your Mom or Dad has been asking you to do...what? And you haven’t or you haven’t quickly and with too many questions or objections. Immediately, completely, cheerfully.

Or maybe your application is going to be about honoring. Maybe you need to change the way you talk about your Dad or your Mom to your friends. Maybe you need to write a Thank-You note today (or every day this week!) to thank them for a job well done. Or maybe there’s something they need done around their home. Or maybe they need a phone call or a listening ear. Or maybe they are gone and their memory needs to be honored in some way (a journal entry, a story told about them to your children, a phone call to their nearest living relative, something like that).

Can I ask you, kids, to write down an application on the back of your bulletin and a prayer for God’s help in doing it, and then rejoice in adavance for the blessing that God has in store for you. “It will go well with you.”

If you do your part of The Family Dance.

Obey and Honor. Those are the submissive commands that God has for children.

But what about parents? What are we who are parents called to by God? V.4

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Why “Fathers?”

Why does v.4 say “fathers” only and not parents? Paul just used the word for parents in v.1. Why doesn’t he use that word again in v.4? Why does he use the word “Fathers?”

Headship.

I think he does mean parents in general, but I think [what’s going on here is that] he means fathers in specific. Fathers have a special calling to lead in the home.

Remember, God has designed the family in such a way as to place the Father in the position of authority. More than the mother, the family (especially the family’s spiritual condition) is the leadership responsibility of the father.

We’ve come back to headship. Dads. Exercise headship. God is calling you to lead your family spiritually. No exceptions. Do you see an exception in this verse? No question that moms are important–especially in families that don’t have dads or don’t have Christian dads! But, Dad, God is looking you in the eye and asking you to take responsibility for the spiritual direction of your kids.

It doesn’t matter if your Mom was the spiritual leader in your family. It doesn’t matter if all the other dads are trying to get out of it. You have read this verse. You are called to it. It says, “Fathers.”

Parents in general, but fathers in specific.

Fathers are to take the lead in The Family Dance. Now, verse 4 again.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” Let’s stop there.

The first step for parents is a negative one. Don’t do this.

PARENTS, [STEP #3.] DON’T EXASPERATE YOUR CHILDREN.

Don’t exasperate your children. With the authority and power of leadership comes the responsibility of self-control and reasonableness in its use.

“Exasperate” is a big word that means to bother, to disturb, to annoy, to chafe, to irk, to irritate, to vex. The KJV had it right, “Provoke not your children to wrath.” Don’t parent in such a way that you create an angry child.

Dads, this is just as important as your children learning to obey you.

You need to be the kind of dad worth obeying.

What kind of things create an angry child? Let me give you a quick list:

Unreasonable demands. Can they do what you are asking?

Petty rules. Is there really a reason you are asking this of them?

Favoritism. They will know if you like one better than another.

Unrighteous Anger. They will learn it from you.

Unfairness. Did you say one thing and then do another?

Humiliation. Nothing breaks the spirit as much as public shaming.

Abuse. The anger will build and build and then you’ve lost them.

Neglect. You’ve got to pour your time and attention into them so that they won’t grow in anger and resentment.

Does this mean that you are not to cross their will? Does this mean that you are to pussyfoot around your children so that they never get upset with you? No. That would turn the home upside down.

I heard a story once about a boy who was running away from home (had his pack over his back and everything), and a policeman drove by and asked him, “Sonny, what are you doing?” The little boy said, “I’m running away from home.” “Why are you doing that?” “Because Mother and Dad won’t mind me anymore!” was his reply. Unfortunately, there are too many families like that!

No, this doesn’t mean that you never make them mad. It means that you don’t make them mad for no good reason! It doesn’t mean don’t put your foot down so that they are always happy with you. It means put your foot down in a reasonable place with a view towards their long-term good not your short-term comfort!

Don’t exasperate your children.

The second command is the opposite of this. It comes it two parts. We’ll call it 2 commands. V.4 again.

“Instead, [this is how you encourage them instead of exasperate them] bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The word for “bring up” is the same word for feeding and caring for you body or your wife in v.29 of chapter 5. It means to meet their needs–especially spiritually. Many people only go so far with this. They meet their children’s needs for food, clothing, shelter, education, and security, but they miss the most important one!

STEP #4. PARENTS, BRING UP YOUR CHILDREN IN THE TRAINING OF THE LORD.

Christians parents (especially fathers) are called by God to bring up their children in the training of the Lord.

Just like “in the Lord” was the most important three words of v.1, “of the Lord” is the most important words of v.4. This is all about Jesus.

Dads [and Moms], you are called to bring up your children so that they are trained of the Lord.

That word “trained” is the same word used elsewhere for discipline.

Loving discipline is the chief thing missing from many Christian homes today. There is this idea that discipline isn’t love and that we need to love our children not discipline them–especially spanking.

But God wants us to love our children by disciplining them. And there is no way around it.

Children need discipline. And they love it.

Nobody loves a spanking. But we all love the fruit of spanking–what it produces in disciplined children that eventually have self-discipline are safe in “the circle of blessing.”

The “circle of blessing” is a concept that is explained by Tedd Tripp in his most excellent book (I can’t recommend it enough!) Shepherding a Child’s Heart.”

He says that Ephesians 6:1-3 (the kids’ side of the Family Dance) is obedience and honor of parents that leads to blessing.

“With obedience comes blessing.”

But when our children step outside of the circle of blessing, they are in what? Danger.

With disobedience comes danger.

And discipline, especially the rod or spanking, is a God-given means to help our children back into the circle of blessing.

That’s how Heather and I explain it nearly every time that we have to discipline one of our children.

They need to know that they are under authority and that authority exists for their good.

“Son, what did you do?”

“I disobeyed.”

“What comes with disobedience?”

“Danger.”

“Do I want danger for you?”

“No.”

“What does God tell me that I need to do for you?”

“Spank me.”

“That’s right. And I love you and I will be diligent to do what is best for you.”

And a spanking and a prayer time together.

And a reminder of the Gospel!

Discipline is not vindication and a chance to get out our anger.

It is a Gospel opportunity.

I just learned this the other day from a very good tape on parenting.

To ask this at the end of each discipline experience.

“Do you know why you disobeyed? You disobeyed because you are a sinner that needs a savior. Just like Daddy.”

Remember, this is the discipline of the Lord. We are building our families on the Gospel.

And all discipline is meant to point us to some aspect of the Gospel.

And, of course, there is much more than just corrective discipline to be doing.

That’s STEP #5. PARENTS, BRING UP YOUR CHILDREN IN THE INSTRUCTION OF THE LORD.

Parents (especially fathers) are called by God to meet the spiritual needs of our children with instruction. The idea of instruction emphasizes the use of words. Teaching. Admonishing. Warning. Correcting. Explaining.

Dads, this is your responsibility. Don’t expect the church to do this for you! The Sunday School and Children’s Church and Kids for Christ and ABC Kids and Uth are helpful in coming alongside and enhancing what you are doing at home, but they are woefully inadequate to turn your children into fully loving followers of Jesus like God wants them to be. By God’s grace, that’s your job!

And Moms, that’s your job, too. To follow Dad’s lead in instructing your children in the ways of God. Especially, if there is no Christian father in the picture.

I highly, highly, highly recommend daily family devotions and study time. We have done all kinds of things as a family to do that training together.

We read spiritual books. We the read the Bible. We teach our kids memory verses and Bible memory songs. We pray with them. We teach them questions and answers about Christianity. That’s often called catechizing them. It just means teaching them questions and answers about Christianity.

Robin and Drew have about 40 questions that they know the answers to including most of the beatitudes by number and the 10 commandments by number.

We’ve got to do the Family Dance! Instruct them about the Lord.

Parents, especially fathers, what is your personal application going to be this week?

We’ve just dedicated Ben, Matthew, and Zane to the Lord. These parents have just promised to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

What are you planning to do? What new plans to you need to put into place?

Maybe it starts with repentance.

Repentance for something you’re doing that leads to exasperating your child.

There are very few things more powerful in parenting than apologizing to your child. God is bigger than Daddy’s ego!

Or make an application about bringing them up in the training of the Lord. Are you disciplining like you should? Does your son respect your wife? Dads, it’s your job to train in that respect. Are they running wild? Are they being trained towards godliness, where their will is being shaped by the values of scripture?

Or make an application about bringing them up in the instruction of the Lord. Do you have a family devotion time? Are you using teachable moments? Are you reading the Bible together? Are you praying together? Are you blessing your children? Dads? Are your children in Sunday School? Are you finding out what they are learning in Sunday School and Children’s Church and using that as a spring-board for spiritual instruction in the home? That’s where it’s supposed to happen.

Ask God to reveal where you need to grow, dads and moms, and then write it down with a prayer for help.

Children, Obey and Honor your Parents in the Lord.

Parents (especially fathers), Don’t exasperate, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Families, let’s dance!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Now This Is Funny #2

No Need to Reply, I'll be on Vacation!


If you missed the first part of this joke, check here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

In the News: The Surprising Truth about Homosexuality

As you've probably heard already in the news, Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and president of the National Association of Evangelicals has admitted to some of the allegations that he has been engaging in homosexual affairs with a male prostitute for the last 3 years. See the story here with some good reminders of how to respond to things like this.

This is sad in so many ways. Especially sad for us is that the movement of churches my church belongs to--the EFCA--is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, a group that has been trying to work together without compromising the gospel for over 50 years.

Please pray for this and for its effect on the elections this week. Many will use it to see the evangelical truth about homosexuality as a farce and many will decide not to vote because of perceived (and perhaps genuine) hypocrisy. Pray also for Mr. Haggard for the full truth to come out and for appropriate discipline for whatever he has done--as well as vindication for anything he hasn't.

And pray for pastors, too. We are not perfect but we are called to a high standard and can't afford to compromise.

Mortality Focuses Your Life

I've read or hear several things recently about how we need to be living now in light of our sure and certain death.

This one was today.

How true.