Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Significance of Laws for The Unborn

Abortions are declining in the U.S. as evidenced by this  article from the Washington Post. That is great news, but the goal ought not to be a decrease, but the elimination of abortions completely by working with others on every possible front to prevent this “humanitarian” catastrophe.

The article sites several reasons why abortion has declined, but the last statement in the article is very significant. Michael J. New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama said, “The states with the most active pro-life laws have seen the biggest abortion declines.”

Laws are a product of the worldview of the people that make them, which means that education (Stillwater Life Services) (Abort 73 Website) about unborn persons is  incredibly important in winning the battle to protect the lives of the most defenseless. We must be informed and we must inform others if we are to continue to see a drop in abortion. Knowing nothing and doing nothing is inexcusable when there are over one million babies dying every year in the richest country in the history of the world.

It is true that no one can legislate the morality of the heart and mind, but it is significant that any state would have in place representatives that are willing to defend life with laws, because laws are the expression of what people collectively value (In a representative democracy – at least most of the time.) Laws are not the answer to stopping abortion, but they are indicative  of a mindset that belongs to the majority of the populace that says life matters, especially the most vulnerable life.

So again I say that I am glad that laws in pro-life states are producing a decrease in abortions, but we must not be satisfied with decrease. We must teach and model that all people, even the unborn, have value and rights so we can stop needlessly wasting valuable unborn people.

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Charles Spurgeon – Writing The Gospel

I can’t begin to imagine the amount of written content Charles Haddon Spurgeon would have produced in our day. For example, in his biography of Spurgeon, Arnold Dallimore records that Spurgeon penned up to 500 personal letters per week. You read correctly, 500 per week. Simply stated, that is nothing short of incredible, especially when  reminded that he did it with pen that he dipped in ink.

But beyond being amazed at Spurgeon’s discipline and productivity, there is a practical example to be emulated for the sake of the gospel and the good of others. Very few of us will ever be the kind of prolific writer that Spurgeon was, but everyone of us can plead for the salvation of others with the thoughtful stroke of pen or keyboard. Have you ever written to someone on the behalf of Christ and begged them to be reconciled to God? (2 Corinthians 5:20) I hope and pray that the following letter from Spurgeon will inspire you to do that very thing. It has on more than one occasion inspired me.

Written on July 1, 1890, Spurgeon was said to have been sick, tired and very busy. His hand “was swollen and probably painful as he held the pen.” (Dallimore, p 225)

My Dear Arthur Layzell,

I was a little while ago at a meeting for prayer where a large number of ministers were gathered together. The subject of prayer was “our children.” It soon brought tears to my eyes to hear those good fathers pleading with God for their sons and daughters. As they went on entreating the Lord to save their families my heart seemed ready to burst with strong desire that it might even so. Then I thought, I will write to those sons and daughters, to remind of their parents’ prayers.

Dear Arthur, you are highly privileged in having parents who pray for you. Your name is known in the courts of heaven. Your case has been laid before the throne of God.

Do you not pray for yourself? If you do not do so, why not? If other people value your soul, can it be right for you to neglect it? See, the entreaties and wrestlings of your father will not save you if you never seek the Lord yourself. You know this.

You do not intend to cause grief to dear mother and father: but you do. So long as you are not saved, they can never rest. However, obedient and sweet and kind you may be, they will never feel happy about you until you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so find everlasting salvation.

Think of this. Remember how much you have already sinned, and none can wash you but Jesus. When you grow up you may become very sinful, and no one can change your nature and make you holy but but the Lord Jesus, through His Spirit.

You need what father and mother seek for you and you need it NOW. Why not seek it at once? I heard a father pray, “Lord, save our children, and save them young.” It is never too soon to be safe; never too soon to be happy; never too soon to be holy. Jesus loves to receive the very young ones.

You cannot save yourself, but the great Lord Jesus can save you. Ask him to do it. “He that asketh receiveth.” Then trust in Jesus to save you. he can do it, for he died and rose again that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.

Come and tell Jesus you have sinned; seek forgiveness; trust in Him for it, and be sure that you are saved.

Then imitate our Lord. Be at home what Jesus was at Nazareth. Yours will be a happy home, and your dear father and mother will feel that the dearest wish of their hearts has been granted them.

I pray you think of heaven and hell, for in one of those places you will live forever. Meet me in heaven. Meet me at once at the mercy-seat. Run upstairs and pray to the great Father, through Jesus Christ.

Yours very lovingly, C.H. Spurgeon. (Dallimore, p 224,25)

Preaching Through the Bible and Not Around It

Since August we have been going through Paul’s epistle to the Galatians sequentially, one section of thought after the other. I reflect on our journey through Galatians because at times, at least for me, it has felt like we have been hacking through a dense rain forest with a dull machete. (I’m the dull machete.) But I wouldn’t do it any other way, even though there might be easier ways to preach.

But now on the verge of preaching through an entire book of the Bible for the first time in my pastoral career, I am more committed than ever to preaching through books of the Bible, or in some cases, preaching through units within books of the Bible. Either way, consistently committing to go through the word of God instead of cherry picking around the word of God makes the most sense to me for several reasons.

  1. Preaching through the Bible establishes an objective credibility. I think one of the reasons that topical preaching appears so suspicious is that the topic chosen can be viewed merely as the pastors agenda. I was visiting with a pastor friend recently and we were discussing tithing and the challenges the topic presents from a pastoral and preaching perspective. He said that while preaching through the book of Philippians he came to the latter part of chapter four where Paul talks about the generosity of the Philippian Church in giving. It happened that the day my friend was to preach over this section of scripture, his church was also presenting the budget for the upcoming year. Now suppose my friend was not preaching through the book of Philippians but decided arbitrarily to pick that passage because it fit the need of advancing the budget and giving for the coming year. You can imagine the cynicism of people who think that the pastor is just trying to pad his salary. But because my friend was preaching through the Bible faithfully, it gives him credibility in that not only did he preach the passage about giving, but he preached and called for obedience to the whole counsel of God throughout the book of Philippians. Preaching through the Bible and not around it shows a commitment to the Bible and not an arbitrary agenda.
  2. Preaching through the Bible makes me preach hard texts that need to be heard. People typically don’t like to be reminded of their inadequacies (sin) as free moral beings. Having preached through most of the book of Galatians I can tell you that talking about sin and the need for people to be declared righteous by a perfect God through faith alone is unavoidable. My tendency as a people-pleaser is to want to win the approval of people, but preaching through the Bible requires that I please God rather than man by dividing the happy parts and the ones that assault human pride.
  3. Preaching through the Bible helps me establish a meta-narrative understanding of the Bible. In one year of preaching I have preached through the first four chapters of Genesis, the last two chapters of Ephesians and almost all of Galatians. Preaching through texts instead of around them always leads me back to Genesis and the Old Testament, reminding myself and my listeners that the story of a Holy God redeeming fallen mankind for the praise of His glory, is the consistent and ultimate theme of the Bible. God is telling a central story using many smaller stories and they all point to Jesus, the consummation of all things. (Ephesians 1:10)
  4. Preaching through the Bible helps me to teach the people I lead how to study the Bible in context. Galatians 3:28 is a verse that looks like it is teaching that men and women are equal in all aspects of the Christian life. But if the verse is read in context of the Paul’s greater argument, it becomes plain that Paul is saying that men and women, Jew and Greek, slave and free are all equally justified in Christ despite gender, social status or ethnicity. Verse 28 is about justification not gender roles and preaching through the Bible helps protect us from interpreting verses out of context.
  5. Preaching through the Bible keeps me humble. Preaching is hard work and there are many passages that are difficult to understand and preach through, but it keeps me depending on God.
  6. Preaching through the Bible saves me from my own creativity. I really don’t have any creativity which is why I need to be saved from myself. I have a gifted media pastor who brands and packages sermon series for me, but my job is to simply follow the outline of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Preaching through the Bible means that I am following the leading of the Spirit. The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It  makes sense then that the Holy Spirit is going to use that which the Holy Spirit inspired, and if all of it is inspired then I would do well to treat it as such. “God’s Spirit uses God’s word.” – Mark Dever
  8. Preaching through the Bible models consistency and perseverance for those I lead. It is not easy to preach through the Bible just as it is not easy to read through the Bible, but sticking with preaching through the Bible or units in the Bible displays a commitment to God and His word. I don’t think it can be overestimated how important it is to show consistency and perseverance in loving God’s precious word.

These are a few of the reasons I feel strongly that preaching through the Bible is the best way to consistently preach for the health of those I pastor, but I also acknowledge it is not the only way to preach. I will occasionally preach a topical sermon from time-to-time. I had a friend recently say to me about preaching that there is no right way to preach, but there are definitely a lot of wrong ways. I see his point. But whatever each pastor’s unique style or angle is, he must be faithful to the inspired text and I just happen to believe strongly that preaching through the Bible and not around it, is the best way.

Family Planning For The Gospel

I want to supplement a blog that I wrote back in October 2009 called, “Everyday Suggestions For Making Disciples At Home and Beyond.” Link to “Everday Suggestions” In “Everyday Suggestions” I gave a list of ways for sharing the gospel and making disciples, especially at home, but what I want to add is the intentional routine by which Lacey and I are taking the primary responsibility of  living and speaking the gospel to our boys.

Every Christian parent needs to understand that their home is the front line for spreading the gospel and making disciples of Jesus. Everyone and everything else, including church, is supplemental. But in order to fulfill their privilege and duty of making disciples, Christian parents have to be intentional and they have to be consistent. After all, no one plans to fail but a lot of people fail to plan and end up failing miserably.

I would welcome suggestions and examples that might help myself and others, but here is our battle plan. What is yours?

  1. We try to begin our day with some sort of family Bible reading at the breakfast table. The important thing is that we are modeling that God’s word is important enough to read it before we start our day. This time usually from Psalms or Proverbs.
  2. We pray before every meal. This is a challenge because our little guys don’t stay still very long, but we try to get them to pray or stay still to let us pray and give thanks in the name of Jesus.
  3. We almost always have a more in-depth Bible time before the boys go to bed at night. Right now we are reading the creation account in Genesis and I have to admit that sometimes this Bible time is a little sporadic, but there needs to be a systematic reading of God’s word. This will help establish the discipline of our boys systematically reading the Bible when they are old enough. By the way, one of the most rewarding parts of being consistent is when your three-year-old asks, “We having Bible time tonight?” Be consistent, even when it is hard and it will pay off.
  4. We have started reading Christian Biography. This is a recent development, but Luke and I just finished a biography about Hudson Taylor, the missionary to China in the Nineteenth Century. Children like stories, so read to them about Christian’s who lived for Jesus who were not in the Bible.
  5. We always pray for our boys before we turn off the light. We always pray for physical and spiritual protection from the evil one, but we also pray that our sons would trust and treasure Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. We pray the gospel almost every night.
  6. We try to be intentional in asking questions about God. Luke and I had a fascinating conversation in the car the other day about the perseverance of the saints. Luke can hang with me – most of the time and he asks some of the best questions. I probably learn as much as he does.
  7. Lacey creates traditions. For example, we do an Advent Calendar every Christmas. Starting on December 1 we read a little bit about the birth of Jesus every night and then pray. The boys anticipate it and love it.
  8. We effort to model the life of Jesus. No one is perfect so one of the ways we model following Christ is by asking for forgiveness a lot, both from God and each other. Authenticity and integrity are crucial and in teaching children, more is often caught than is taught. Children are watching and they can spot hypocrisy instinctively. We must live what we teach and we must teach what we live, but it doesn’t matter what we say if you don’t model it with our lives.

These things are working for us and are a work in progress in our home. Here are a couple of other things to think about.

  • We didn’t formulate this plan and implement it all in one day or week. The things I have mentioned above are things that have developed from trial and error over the years. We have learned these things from reading, asking questions of seasoned parents, observing, failing, etc.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t expect too much in one day, but lay down a foundation a little at a time. Start somewhere and start simple, but make sure you make Jesus the object of your plan through the word of God.
  • Warning: If you are young parents or have young children, the longer you wait the harder it will be. Start early, even when your child is an infant. If you got started late, stick with it and make it a priority.
  • Finally, make it a priority by being intentional and being consistent. Nothing will hinder discipleship more than being sporadic. You must be consistent, you must be disciplined and diligent and thoughtful.

Don’t waste your family by not having a plan. May God give us all strength and wisdom and stamina to be faithful with the gift of children and family for the sake of Jesus and the glory of God.