In Case You Missed It

In a recent blog post, Jamie Dew discusses how to turn your child’s mistakes into teachable moments by asking “What did you Learn?” Dr. Dew writes:

What is your first reaction when your children make a “childish” mistake? By “childish”, I mean something like spilling milk, dropping your phone in the toilet, throwing a golf ball through a window, or ripping the wallpaper off the wall. I’m not referring to malicious acts of the will like hitting a brother, lying to a parent, or refusing to obey. Let’s consider those kinds of things later. For now, let’s think about our response to childish mistakes that kids make. The kind of mistakes that kids make because they are kids.

 

I’ll admit it, if I’m not careful, my first reaction to these kinds of mistakes is anger. With four kids, there have been plenty of moments when something went wrong and I responded in a way was is understandable, but not helpful. So, how do you respond?

At the Intersect Project’s website, Bruce Ashford discusses seven guiding principles for Christians in the public square.

A core biblical teaching is that all humans are worshipers, either of God or of idols. Our worship is located in the heart, and it radiates outward into all that we do. People who are not Christians are still worshipers, and whatever or whoever they worship radiates outward into all tat they do, including their public-square interactions.

 

As Christian believers, we worship the God of Jesus Christ. Because he is the creator and Lord of all that exists, we seek to bring all of our lives, including our public-square interactions, into submission to his lordship.

 

Yet the question remains: “How exactly do we bring our public-square interactions in line with Christ’s lordship?” Here are seven points that offer a way forward.

Aaron Earls recently published an article explaining how courage is the way forward for Christians in a complicated culture. Aaron writes:

Let’s cut to the chase and acknowledge what we all already know. As Christians, we face difficult circumstances and troubling trends that undermine the image of God in every man, woman and child. But these are not new problems for the Church.

 

The bride of Christ has confronted and thrived in the midst of cultural embrace of triumphalist leaders parading as political messiahs, sub-biblical sexuality offering empty promises, the devaluing of human life from the unborn to the elderly, and rejection of our shared humanity over issues of race and class.

 

That the Church will come through victoriously on the other side yet again is not in doubt—not because our strength or accomplishments, but because of Christ’s strength in our weakness and His finished work on our behalf.

 

The only real question is about you and I. Will we make it through unscathed? Will individual Christians maintain their faithful witness in the midst of trying times? That all depends on how we choose to respond.

 

We will be told that there are only three options—capitulation, cowardice or cynicism. Each have their own temptations and allures, but each is faulty and unbiblical.

At The People’s Next Door blog, Meredith Cooper explains that hospitality is hard, but we should do it anyway.

Hospitality is a word I hear a lot in conjunction with ministry training. It is now a common subject in my seminary classes, church sermons, conferences or books I read, and with good reason. Hospitality is an important part of both obeying the “one another” commands we see in Scripture regarding fellow believers and doing gospel ministry with those outside the church. Take Rosaria Butterfield for example, who became a believer largely due to a pastor and his wife hosting her in their home regularly and sharing the gospel with her.

 

In order to understand what hospitality is, we need to see what hospitality is not. People commonly associate hospitality with inviting people into our homes, but there are some pre-conceived notions that must be dismissed.

At The Gospel Coalition, Donald Whitney gives five reasons we should prioritize family worship.

Just about everyone I know feels overwhelmed. Most are busier than they’ve ever been before, especially if they have children at home.

 

Pair that with my observation that most Christians I know would affirm that family worship—if they’re familiar with it—would probably be a worthwhile practice if they were to make time for it.

 

If these things are true for you, then my prayer is to persuade you, despite the many demands on your schedule, to make a priority of family worship. And I hope to persuade you regardless of your family’s size—even if you’ve never had kids or no longer have them in your home—by means of the following five reasons.

Spiritual Disciplines as Means of Grace

This past Sunday, I began teaching a class at First Baptist Church of Durham on the topic “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” The class is loosely adapted from Donald Whitney’s well-known book by the same title, which has recently been republished in a second edition. In the first class meeting, I introduced the topic by discussing some key definitions, explaining the nature and purpose of spiritual disciplines, and expounding some key biblical texts. I also addressed the idea that the spiritual disciplines are means of grace in the Christian life. Let me explain what I mean.

Many people, both believers and non-believers, are tempted to practice the spiritual disciplines in a legalistic way. They are either trying to earn God’s favor or keep God’s favor. This is unfortunate, but perhaps understandable: the language of spiritual disciplines sounds similar to the religious self-help lingo that is so pervasive in American culture. For this reason, Kyle Strobel suggests that “spiritual disciplines” is a well-meaning term put in an unfortunate way in his excellent book Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP 2013, p. 70).

In part as a reaction to this legalism, other believers do not practice spiritual disciplines in any sort of deliberate manner. Because they live under grace, they consider almost any discussion of the spiritual disciplines to be legalistic. (Though, interestingly, most of them still say we should read the Bible and pray regularly.) As the late Dallas Willard reminded us as often as he could, grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Spiritual maturity is hard work!

We need to remember that we never pursue the spiritual disciplines as ends unto themselves. Instead, we pursue a closer relationship with God through the practice of the spiritual disciplines in the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, one of the ways we live out the gospel is to practice the spiritual disciplines. When we think about spiritual disciplines in this way, we see they are what past generations of Christians called “means of grace” that the Holy Spirit uses to conform us more and more to the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). Please don’t misunderstand me. By “means of grace,” I do not mean that the spiritual disciplines contribute to our spiritual standing before God; we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! Rather, I mean the spiritual disciplines are God-ordained practices that God uses to grow us in godliness.

Near my home is a great city park with a couple of miles of trails. Many of the trails wind through acres of woods. When the city bought the land for the park from a local farmer several years ago, they carved out these trails to help walkers, joggers, and bikers avoid getting lost in the wilderness. The trails are not ends unto themselves; rather, they are the means to help us make progress in our journey of exercise and guide us to the right destination. In the same way, spiritual disciplines are “trails” that God has ordained to help keep us on the right path and make progress in our journey of sanctification.

I want to urge you to practice biblical spiritual disciplines such as Scripture meditation and memorization, prayer, fasting, silence and solitude, service, worship (personal and corporate), and mission. If you want to learn more about the spiritual disciplines, check out Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 2014).

Andrew Fuller’s Advice for Your Daily Quiet Time

Man-Reading-Bible235x275Various Christian traditions tend to emphasize different practices when it comes to cultivating a healthy personal piety. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, prayerful meditation, often with the aid of icons, has occupied a signal place in personal spirituality. In Roman Catholicism, Marian piety remains a perennial emphasis. In Anglicanism, the Book of Common Prayer shapes individual devotional practice almost as much as corporate worship. For most evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, arguably the central spiritual practice is the daily quiet time of Bible reading and prayer.

The famous Baptist pastor-theologian Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was once asked to give his advice about personal Bible reading. It’s interesting that over two centuries ago, what he described is so very similar to what we would consider to be a healthy daily quiet time. He recommended daily Scripture reading and prayer, suggesting that morning was the best time. He recommended using commentaries and other tools when you come across something in your reading that confuses you, though he cautions against over-reliance on these non-inspired study tools. He suggested not just reading the Scriptures, but meditating on what you read. Fuller even recommended journaling about insights that come to you as you read and meditate on the biblical text. In other words, Andrew Fuller was Richard Foster and Donald Whitney before the latter two were cool. You can read his short essay below.

I do not wish the following remarks to supersede any other answer which may enter more fully into the subject. All I have to offer will be a few hints from my own experience.

In the first place, I have found it good to appoint set times for reading the Scriptures; and none have been so profitable as part of the season appropriated to private devotion on rising in the morning. The mind at this time is reinvigorated and unencumbered. To read a part of the Scriptures, previous to prayer, I have found to be very useful. It tends to collect the thoughts, to spiritualize the affections, and to furnish us with sentiments wherewith to plead at a throne of grace. And as reading assists prayer, so prayer assists reading. At these seasons we shall be less in danger of falling into idle speculations, and of perverting Scripture in support of hypotheses. A spiritual frame of mind, as Mr. [Samuel] Pearce somewhere observes, is as a good light in viewing a painting; it will not a little facilitate the understanding of the Scriptures. I do not mean to depreciate the labours of those who have commented on the sacred writings; but we may read expositors, and consult critics, while the “spirit and life” of the word utterly escape us. A tender, humble, holy frame is perhaps of more importance to our entering into the mind of the Holy Spirit than all other means united. It is thus that, by “an unction from the Holy One, we know all things.”

In reading by myself, I have also felt the advantage of being able to pause, and think, as well as pray; and to inquire how far the subject is any way applicable to my case, and conduct in life.

In the course of a morning’s exercise it may be supposed that some things will appear hard to be understood; and I may feel myself, after all my application, unable to resolve them. Here, then, let me avail myself of commentators and expositors. If I read them instead of reading the Scriptures, I may indeed derive some knowledge; but my mind will not be stored with the best riches; nor will the word “dwell richly in me in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” If, on the other hand, I read the Scriptures, and exercise my own mind on their meaning, only using the helps with which I am furnished when I particularly need them, such knowledge will avail me more than any other; for, having felt and laboured at the difficulty myself, what I obtain from others towards the solution of it becomes more interesting and abiding than if I had read it without any such previous efforts. And as to my own thoughts, though they may not be superior nor equal to those of others, in themselves considered, yet, if they be just, their having been the result of pleasing toil renders them of superior value to me. A small portion obtained by our own labour is sweeter than a large inheritance bequeathed by our predecessors. Knowledge thus obtained will not only be always accumulating, but of special use in times of trial; not like the cumbrous armour which does not fit us, but like the sling and the stone, which, though less brilliant, will be more efficacious.

I may add, it were well for those who can find leisure to commit to writing the most interesting thoughts which occur at these seasons. It is thus that they will be fixed in the memory; and the revision of them may serve to rekindle some of the best sensations in out life.

See Andrew Fuller, “Reading the Scriptures,” in The Works of Andrew Fuller, vol. III, ed. Joseph Belcher (1845; reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), p. 788.

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