What Puritans Can Teach Us About Family Worship

What can I do to help my kids grow spiritually?

For most of us, the first thing that comes to our mind is to teach our kids the Bible. This is great, but depending on the age and stage of our kids this can be rough. So what can we as parents do?

This week I came across a conversation between  Tim Challies and Dr. Joel Beeke on the family worship habits of Puritans.  In it, Dr. Joel Beeke points out that for Puritans reading the Bible was just one part of family worship. But it certainly wasn’t the only part.

Below is a part of the conversation between Tim Challies (TC) and Dr. Joel Beeke (JB). You can read the entire conversation here.

TC: To hear people talk about the Puritans, you would imagine they were harsh toward their children, making them endure endless hours of family worship. Is this accurate?

JB: Endless hours in family worship would have been impossible for most people in the seventeenth-century. In Puritan New England, many people were farmers who had to labor hard to produce food. Children also had much to do in school, household chores, and working alongside their fathers and mothers to learn a vocation. The Puritans also took time for recreation. They enjoyed hunting, fishing, shooting competitions, and wrestling—two New England Puritan ministers were famous amateur wrestlers. They enjoyed music in their homes, owning guitars, harpsichords, trumpets, violas, drums, and other instruments. There was a lot to do; family devotions were one part—albeit the most important part—of a busy daily schedule.

The Puritans aimed at pithy instruction and heart-moving prayer. Samuel Lee wrote that in all our teaching of the family we should beware of boring the children by talking too much. Long devotions overburden their little minds. It is best to hold the attention of children by using spiritual analogies with flowers, rivers, a field of grain, birds singing, the sun, a rainbow, etc.

 

What is clear from this brief exchange is that Puritan families were spiritually strengthened by at least three practices:

They worked together

Whether household chores or learning their parent’s vocation, children worked along side their parents. This provided plenty of opportunities to for parents and children to talk together about life, the Bible, and the Christian faith. It was a way of living out the principles of Deuteronomy 6:4-7.

They played together

As hard as it is to imagine, puritans families had fun together. Sports, music, and just good old fashion play was a regular part of the their household interaction. They understood that all activities could be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

They enjoyed God’s creation together

Notice when teaching the Bible, parents were encouraged to use spiritual analogies to help children understand. They used pictures of flowers, rivers, fields of grain, singing birds, the sun, and rainbows, to help explain the Christian life. They used such analogies because they took pleasure in these creations. Puritans understood that one of the purposes of creation is to lead us to worship of our Creator (Romans 1:20).

 

Helping you family grow spiritually doesn’t have to be boring. And it doesn’t have to just consists of a series of Bible studies. If you really want your family to grow spiritually, then take a lesson from the Puritans. Work to together. Play together. Enjoy God’s creation together. Knowing that such practices will enhance those times when you do read the Bible together.

Why Are There Martyrs?

Chris asked, “If God provides for all of our needs, why are there martyrs? How are their needs being met?”

I love good questions. And these are good questions.

For this post we’ll have to work our way backwards. I’ll answer the second question first, because that will in turn answer the first question.

So let’s begin with the answer to the second question by focusing on the notion of “need”. For example, when the Apostle Paul writes, “And my God will meet all your needs” (Phil 4:19a), what is he saying?

Paul, appears to be saying, “With God, you will never be needy.” But that can’t be accurate because, in Philippians 4:12 Paul writes,

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

We see that for Paul there were times when he was clearly in need. So how can he write, “And my God will meet all your needs”?

The answer has to do with Paul’s “secret of being content in any and every situation”. What was Paul’s secret?  The answer is in the next verse,

I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)

Paul is saying that there have been times of need and times of abundance, but because he has Jesus, he has the strength to be content in all situations.

Now, understanding this is important because Paul uses the same logic in Philippians 4:19. The entire verse actually reads:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Similar to Philippians 4:12-13, Paul is saying two things:

  1. God promises to meet your needs
  2. But, God will meet your needs through Jesus Christ.

What does all this have to do with our original questions about martyrs?

Everything.

The Apostle Paul understood that Jesus Christ is the only thing you need. If you have Jesus you have everything. Because, as he writes in Colossians, “Christ… is your life” (Colossians 3:14).

Paul knew that Jesus gives you life (John 14:6; 17:3). Jesus sustains your life (Colossians 1:17). Jesus directs your life (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus provides purpose to your life (Colossians 1:16). And Jesus demands your life (Matthew 16:25). Thus to have Jesus is to have no other need. Or as Pastor Tullian Tchividjian famously put it, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”.

So now let’s apply this to Christian martyrs.

When Christians are killed for their faith (martyred), God actually supplies all their needs. Because God is giving them Jesus Christ. Paul knew this, when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”(Phil 1:21). Paul looked forward to death because he knew that after death he would instantly enter into the full presence of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:8). Therefore, he would not lose anything, but instead gain everything.

There is no such thing as a needy martyr. Because Jesus Christ fulfills every need. When we die we get all of Christ. We therefore, lose nothing, and gain everything.

God allows Christians to be martyred, because their deaths proclaim one simple and glorious truth—to have Jesus Christ is to have everything.

Today You Can Be A Superhero

Put on your tights and break out your cape, because today is your day to be a superhero.  Today, you have the chance to save a real life. Or many real lives, if you choose.

You won’t need super powers, an arch enemy, or even some tragic back story. You won’t need to mutate, pursue martial arts training, or even possess enormous amounts of wealth. You won’t even need to travel far, or keep a secret identity.

Today, with very little effort,  you have the ability to save someone from facing certain death. You have the ability to give someone life.  Today, you have everything you need to rescue someone and be a real life superhero.

The number of people you save today is completely up to you.

Today, 19,000 kids under the age of five will die. Half of those deaths are from hunger-related causes.

But students at Fellowship Church are doing something about it. They are taking part in World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine in order to raise awareness and funds to save those dying kids. They are taking the small step of becoming superheros to children in need of rescue.

You can join them!

By clicking here, you can make a donation to their  team page.

$1 saves a child for a day.  $35 saves a child for a month. And $450 saves a child for well over a year. World Vision promises to use your funds to bring emergency food aid to disaster zones and equip families with the tools they need to overcome hunger in their communities. With your help today, lives will be changed forever.

And the good news is that the help is helping. Because of the work of other superheros just like you,  the number of children dying each day from hunger has, since the 1960’s,  dramatically been reduced.

Every $35 you raise can help feed and care for a child for a month. World Vision puts the funds you raise to work by bringing emergency food aid to disaster zones and equipping families with the tools they need to overcome hunger in their communities. With your help, we’re partnering with the poor and empowering them to change the direction of their lives. What does this change look like? Parents equipped to grow healthier, more abundant crops and livestock. Communities gaining access to clean water for nutritious harvests. Children receiving basic medical care. Kids going to school. Families getting on their feet — and standing strong – See more at: http://30hourfamine.org/learn-about-the-famine/famine-faqs-2/?cons_id=0&ts=1398879123&signature=c5c7818d0fd6068b149db3e41b500c7d#sthash.WaBneAU7.dpufEvery $35 you donate helps feed and care for a child for a month. World Vision puts the funds you raise to work by bringing emergency food aid to disaster zones and equipping families with the tools they need to overcome hunger in their communities.
Every $35 you raise can help feed and care for a child for a month. World Vision puts the funds you raise to work by bringing emergency food aid to disaster zones and equipping families with the tools they need to overcome hunger in their communities. With your help, we’re partnering with the poor and empowering them to change the direction of their lives. What does this change look like? Parents equipped to grow healthier, more abundant crops and livestock. Communities gaining access to clean water for nutritious harvests. Children receiving basic medical care. Kids going to school. Families getting on their feet — and standing strong – See more at: http://30hourfamine.org/learn-about-the-famine/famine-faqs-2/?cons_id=0&ts=1398879123&signature=c5c7818d0fd6068b149db3e41b500c7d#sthash.WaBneAU7.dpu

With your help, more children will be saved. And the number of deaths will continue to decline.

Any donation amount is significant to a child in need.

So don’t wait. Put on your cape, click on the link below, and become a superhero to a child today!

Click here, to make a donation to the team page.

 

 

How To Help Students Stop Sinning

Don’t do this! Work harder to do this!

Is our job as pastors, parents, and youth leaders, just to help students stop sinning?

It can often feel that way.stop sign

But ask yourself, what’s the point of telling a student not to sin? Even if they stop with one sin, aren’t they just going to commit another sin later?

What then, should we do?

Should we just give up encouraging students to live moral lives? Should we not tell them what the Bible says about sin and its consequences? Of course not.

But what we should do, is help students understand why they sin in the first place.

James 1:14 says “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”

Sin happens when we try to meet a good desire in the wrong way.

When I was in 5th grade a friend of mine introduce me to pornography. I’d like to say I ran the other way, and never looked back. But I didn’t. I looked, and I looked a lot. But the reason I looked was not because I wanted to rebel against God or my parents, or do something that was wrong. I looked because I desperately wanted my friend to like me. I looked because I had a deep desire to be wanted. And in those moments that desire was fulfilled. I was accepted by my friend, and I felt wanted. My problem was not that I liked pornography, my problem was that my heart was empty.

I have been in some kind of pastoral role to students for over ten years now. And I have often thought about what I as a student needed back then to change my behavior. I know without a doubt that I did not need someone to tell me to stop, or show me from the Bible how pornography was wrong. I had been a Christian since I was four– I knew all that. What I did need was someone to help me understand what was behind my sin. And then how Jesus could help me.

G. K. Chesterton is attributed with saying “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” I believe more and more everyday these words are true.

I still have the desire to be wanted. But unlike my fifth grade self, I now know the right way to have that desire met. His name is Jesus Christ. And there is no desire he cannot abundantly meet. His love is often made tangible through his body, Christians, like my wife, accountability partners, family, and friends. But it is his love meeting my desires that has, and will, keep me free from such sin.

The best thing we as pastors, parents, and youth leaders can do for students, is not to help them stop sinning. Because, life is not just about not sinning.

Rather, the best thing we as pastors, parents, and youth leaders can do, is to help students identify their deepest God-given desires. And then, show them how Jesus can abundantly fulfill them. When this happens they will know the love of Jesus and his body (the church), and the temptation to sin will take care of its self.

Parents: Don’t Stop Pursuing Your Students

 

Another school shooting. This time it’s a twelve-year-old boy at a middle school in New Mexicolet that sink in, a middle school.

If you’re a parent/guardian of a middle school student you currently have a very difficult job.

Your student is going through so many changes it often appears that they’re possessed by some alien intruder. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually they’re transforming right before your eyes. And it is not always easy to deal with. But don’t ever for a second believe that your job as a parent doesn’t matter.

I don’t personally know the twelve-year-old shooter or his family. But as someone who has worked with students for ten years, I can safely assume at least one truth about the family. At some point his parents checked out. At some point they stop pursuing their child.

I don’t blame them. I’ve known enough middle school parents to know there are so many moments which tempt parents to in some way to check out. But here’s what every parent needs to know:

There is no way a twelve-year-old boy brings a shotgun to school if his parents stay engaged in his life.

Every violent student I have ever met has one thing in common. One or more of their parents has in some way checked out. The absence of the parent(s) might be due to work, drugs, or the ever-present smart phone. The addiction of the parent doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when students feel neglected, or like they’re not worth pursuing, they act out in negative ways. And for boys that is often with violence.

I know your student criticizes you, disrespects you, and often rejects you. I know they think they know more then you (and on a few subjects they do). And I know that everything inside you wants to run away or least take a long vacation from parenting. But this time, the time between middle school and high school, is not the time to step back. Now is the time to lean in and not believe the lie that your job is becoming less significant.

Parents, don’t give up.

Your pursuit of your student is what keeps them from pursing violent crime. Your pursuit of your student is what keeps them from toxic relationships or drug abuse. Your pursuit of your student is what keeps them emotionally stable (yes, it could be worse). Your pursuit of your student is what helps them have academic success. Your pursuit of your student helps them grow in their faith. Your day-by-day, no-thrills, pursuit of your student makes him or her feel loved, significant, and secure.

So in summary, please, never, never, ever, stop believing, the truth,  that your pursuit of your student matters!

You Can Do Something

Let us not focus on what we can’t do, but what we can do. You and I might never be the best of the best, or a superstar, but God has still given us some abilities. We can do something.

Here is a video that inspired me to stop thinking about what I can’t do, and instead focus on what I can do. I hope it inspires you too.

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We all have limitations. But limitations do not equal lack of ability. Whatever abilities God has given you, He has given them to you for a reason.

 

 

Advent: A Different Kind of Waiting (Week 2)

Pop quiz.

What is one of the best antidotes to holiday stress?

Answer? Waiting.

No, really. The answer is waiting.

I think one of the reasons you and I get so overwhelmed during the Christmas season is because we are terrible at waiting, and we hate it when we are forced to practice it.

But being forced to wait is often God’s preferred method to help us keep our sanity. How is it that, when I have so much to do, waiting helps me keep my sanity?

That’s the subject of this week’s Advent: A Different Kind of Waiting post, where I share some of the best Advent posts from around the Web.

In a thought-provoking post, Wheaton College Professor Dr. Marc Cortez reminds us that waiting can change the way we view our time. He provides us with five great ways being forced to wait can be a blessing. I particularly like his fourth point:

4. Waiting reminds us that the present matters.

Sometimes I think waiting frustrates us because we’re too future-oriented, always focused on what comes next. But what about now? Next is in God’s hands. Now is what we have. Done well, being forced to wait can be like watching a particularly spectacular movie scene in slow motion. You know the movie will continue playing at regular speed soon, but for now you’re just enjoying what’s on the screen.

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that just about every day.

The rest of the post is just as good. So click below and enjoy this timely, hidden gem of a devotional by Dr. Cortez. Let it change the way you view your time this Advent  season. Then come back and share with us which of Marc’s points resonated most with you.

Blessings!

Forced to Wait: An Advent Reflection

by Marc Cortez December 17, 2012