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Thursday, July 19, 2018

How Can A Man Lead His Wife and Young Children?

Sometimes we have questions submitted to the Truth & Circumstances podcast that are better suited for answering on this blog. Here's a good one: 

“What are some extremely practical ways that a man can lead his wife and young children spiritually? What does that look like in everyday life?”

These are things we’ve talked about before, particularly in our Boot Camp series, but they certainly bear repeating.  
  1. Keep a close watch on your own spiritual wellbeing.
The best thing you can do for your family spiritually is have a close, vibrant walk with the Lord. Your relationship with the Lord is the well from which you will draw resources to lead your family.  Perhaps the biggest mistake that many men make is to think that they can lead their families well while neglecting their own spiritual life.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If you are not living a life of fellowship with Jesus, not only will you not have the spiritual resources to lead well, but you will lack all credibility with your wife and children.

At Providence, we regularly talk about the three main means that the Lord uses to foster fellowship with Himself.  They are fellowship through the Word, fellowship through prayer, and fellowship through meaningful relationships with other believers.  A lot of men are great at the first two, but they overlook or completely disregard the third.  If you would enjoy vibrant fellowship with the Lord, you must not only be spending time with Him privately, but you must also be stoking the flames of your affection for Him by having regular conversations about Him with other people who love Him. God has given the church to the church to help the church be the church.  There is no other way.  You asked for practical, so here it is in very practical terms.  Get into the Word, get onto your knees, and get involved with other Christian men who are serious about leading their families.  A great first step toward that third means of fellowship is our Men's Reveille that takes place on the second Saturday of the month at 8am at Providence.
  1. Do with them what you're modeling for them.
Practically speaking, this means reading the Bible with them, praying with them, and getting them involved with other believers.  To lead them well, you must make sure that they understand that we don't do these things as ends in themselves.  These things are means of fellowship with Jesus.  It's all about Him, not tasks.  So we go to the Word to enjoy him, we pray to enjoy him, and we spend time with believers to enjoy him.

You cannot make them do these things on their own, but you can create an atmosphere in your home where there is the expectation that they will at least participate in these things with the family.  Ideally, you will be training them to do these things on their own as well.  They will see that this is just the way that the Christian life is lived, and your enjoyment of the Lord will be contagious to them.
  1. Bring the things of the Lord into everyday conversations as much as possible.
If you keep your eyes and ears open, there are dozens of opportunities every day to turn conversations toward things of the Lord.  Your wife and children have problems - point them toward the Lord.  There is evidence of God's hand all around them in nature and their own bodies - ask them questions about these things. 

The entertainment that they take in provides a plethora of opportunities to talk about meaningful things.  Ask them,"what do you think that song is trying to teach?”  “What was the message of that movie?”  Then prompt them to compare those things to the truth and wisdom of the Scriptures.

Current events also provide opportunities to talk about the Lord.  For many people, even professing Christians, the sky is always falling.  When unfavorable things are done by the government, when natural disasters take place, when horrific crimes are perpetrated don't allow those moments to escape without teaching your family something about the Lord, without relating it somehow to the gospel.

In all this, you’ll be training them to view the world through the lens of Scripture and the existence and attributes of an Almighty God.  This takes discipline, but it will pay dividends over the years.

These three things come straight from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, where the men of Israel were commanded to love God above all things and to teach their families to do the same.  In our Men’s Boot Camp in recent years, we’ve memorized this passage.  That’s another practical step I would recommend to keep your own mind and heart focused on the objective.

 4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:4-9)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Blessings and Responsibilities of a Church Covenant

I was listening to John MacArthur years ago as he talked about his schedule of preaching three times a week - Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening.  Of course, he loves to preach, but he said that he would be at church every time the doors were open even if he didn’t have any official responsibilities.  Why?  “I just want to be with God’s people.”

That’s stuck with me over the years and replayed in my mind as my family and I drive to and from church or to and from an occasion for fellowship.  My wife and I often will comment to one another after an evening with church family how much we love these people with whom we’ve covenanted.   

We are bound by love and a firm covenant to a particular group of believers in the body of Christ at PBF.  That covenant is a precious thing that carries both blessings and responsibilities.  Among the blessings of meaningful church membership is a growing affection for God’s people.  This affection would seem inexplicable given all our common imperfections and petty annoyances, but the Holy Spirit knows what He’s doing and He does it all the time.  He uses other imperfect, annoying people to stir us up to love and good works.  As they keep the covenant promises they made to us, He uses them to form us into the image of Christ.  And it’s wonderful.    

There are also responsibilities that are part of our church covenant.  This is one reason we recite the church covenant at each members meeting.  We have actually promised to do specific things in one another’s lives.  Those items are outlined in the covenant.  Among them are these: We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech…

It seems that keeping this covenant necessitates spending time among the other members.  How else will we watch over one another, know how to pray for one another, aid one another, and cultivate sympathy for one another?  It also seems that keeping this covenant necessitates knowing who is in the covenant and who is not.  How can we take these promises seriously if we do not know to which individuals we’ve made them?

This Sunday we have the opportunity both to enjoy the blessings and to exercise some of the responsibilities of church membership.  It’s our quarterly potluck and members’ meeting.  For some people in the world, there are few words in the English language that communicate “snooze-fest” like words “potluck” or “meeting.”  I would contend that those people don’t understand the nature of the New Testament church.  We are built to grow through fellowship and by fulfilling our responsibilities to one another (Eph 4:7-16).  Participation in these things with a biblical mindset actually causes our affections for one another to grow.    

This is more than a sales pitch to increase our numbers at the quarterly meeting.  This is about growing to love the people of God.  The elders desire for those of us who may be on the periphery, either physically or in our hearts, to push in and view this kind of fellowship and interaction as a vital part of meaningful service in the body of Christ.  

Our quarterly members meetings are crucial if only to know who is in the covenant and who is not.  When we remove people from membership or add people to membership, we are all saying, “these are the people to whom I have made the promises contained in the covenant I signed when I joined, the promises which I have just recited again in this meeting.”  We are responsible for one another.  It’s essential to know who we’re accountable for.

But this quarterly meeting will include information about several exciting things coming up beginning in the Fall.  The elders will be sharing our vision for where we’d like PBF to go in the coming year.  Please view participation this Sunday afternoon, not as an optional add-on to your Sunday morning, but as preparation to strive side-by-side with one mind in full accord with those whom you have made a covenant (Phil 1:27).  

May the Lord press upon our hearts both the blessings and responsibilities of church membership so that we too say, “I just want to be with God’s people.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Why Save the Soccer Team?

I’ve just read about the Thai boys soccer team that has been trapped in a cave for 12 days since water filled it and prevented their exit.  They are in perilous danger as monsoon rains are threatening to fill the caves further.  Options for rescue include draining as much water as possible so that the boys (many of whom cannot swim) can wade to safety, drilling a hole to the cave where they are located, and using scuba gear to help the boys swim out.  It’s a frantic operation that has drawn an international team of rescuers.  

If I take off my biblical worldview glasses, I have to ask: why all the fuss?  From where does this impulse come to help these boys and their coach?  Why would any of these rescuers risk their lives for a chance to rescue anyone?

On a naturalistic worldview, where all living things are a product of blind, evolutionary forces, this situation is just one of many ways in which “mother nature” is weeding out the weak.  This is survival of the fittest taking place before our very eyes.  Nature is picking off the least suitable for survival in this harsh world.  We’re evolving as a species…and we’re getting to watch it happen.  Atheists and so-called agnostics should watch with dispassionate, yet rapt attention.

However, no one seems to be watching this situation develop as if observing a scientific process.  It’s a human crisis.  I dare say that among the international rescue teams there are those who would be self-described atheists.  Given how vilified creation science is in this country, its possible that a many of those helping with the rescue assume an evolutionary explanation of life.  But how can that be?  How can they hold to naturalistic beliefs while risking their lives to save others?

They can’t help it.  They are made in the image of God.

You see, we can claim to believe wrong things and convince ourselves to some extent that we are right, but we have no choice but to live in God’s world where His truth reigns (Rom 1:17-19).  Fallen as we are, marred as His image is in us, it is not gone.  God values human life because He made man in His own image (Gen 9:6).  Because we are made in His image, deep down we value human life.  This is why we almost universally experience outrage when the weakest among us are victimized, contrary to the dictates of evolutionary thinking.  

In moments of great danger, when we see others in peril, the image of God in us moves us impulsively to move to help.  Without thinking, we risk our lives to save strangers.  These actions do not comport with survival of the fittest, but they coincide perfectly with the character of the God who made us and in whose image we are created.  

The natural man may deny the existence of God with his mouth, but he cannot deny the existence of God with his life.  He will not naturally live for the glory of God, but he cannot help but live as if God exists.  God’s image is woven into every part of the natural man’s being - it shows up in the way he impulsively values human life.