What makes parenting hard: There are no easy times, but there is hope

The biggest problem we face in this world, John Piper preached this past Sunday, is not politics or culture or choices we make but the power of sin. Because sin entered the world, childbearing and childrearing, for one example, became hard. There are no easy times for parents, Piper said, although some times may be harder than others. “If you think (parenting) is easy, you’re dreaming,” he said. “Or wait a few days.”

His sermon, “Parenting with Hope in the Worst of Times,” looked at the situation the prophet Micah was in around 700 years before Jesus was born. What we see in Micah 7 is parenting in the worst of times, where the situation in his culture and at home is bleak. There is no one he can trust, whether it’s in his community or even his own home. In verse 5: “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms.” And it goes further in verse 6: “For the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.”

Is this uncommon? No. Many have families that are torn with strife, broken in some way either by corruption or some other problem. Or even something else. Jesus in Matthew 10:34 quotes this very passage where he talks about the way he divides one family member from another because of his calling. He does it. Not because he loves to break up families, but because there is something so radical about what Jesus demands that it causes disruptions in families. You know what this looks like. The family that doesn’t get that call accuses the one called of being “arrogant” or “too good” for them. Jesus wants them all, but the split can happen over Jesus. The point is is that the tear is not always over some evil.

What is the response? What can we learn from what Micah says? Here are his words from Micah 7:7-10:

7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. 8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. 9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. 10 Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets.Read More »

Jesus, Proverbs and American idols: An appeal to be humble, open-minded, generous, obedient and patient

Tim Keller, digging through Proverbs 3, has come up with five guides to godly living that are useful to pray about for ourselves, our families and our church leaders. They are good checks to see if we are putting these things in our hearts.

1. Put your heart’s deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don’t think you know better than God’s word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)

Keller goes on to say that this wisdom is personified in the New Testament in Jesus, who did all this by 1) trusting God, 2) being saturated in and shaped by the Scripture, 3) being meek and lowly, 4) becoming poor for us, though he was rich, and 5) patiently enduring suffering on our behalf. These are good, solid truths to think on, pray about and ask God to put in your life and others’.

HT: The Gospel Coalition and Redeemer City to City

Enjoy your Starbucks, but don’t think it makes you a better — or worse — person

For those who haunt places like Starbucks, you can sometimes get the impression that you’re doing much more than enjoying a $5 drink. What? Well, according to the Starbucks itself (from the back of a cup): Everything we do, you do. You stop by for a coffee. And just by doing that, you let Starbucks but more coffee from farmers who are good to their workers, community and planet. Starbucks bought 65% of our coffee this way last year–228 million pounds–and we’re working with farmers to make it 100%. It’s using our size for good, and you make it all possible. Way to go, you” (emphasis original).

This kind of ultra-coolness can go to your head. So much so that people say things like: “I think we have managed to, with a simple cup of coffee and a very unique experience, enhance the lives of millions of people by re-creating a sense of community, by bringing people together and recognizing the importance of place in people’s lives.” That’s actually a statement from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, as quoted in Bryant Simon’s new book “Learning About America from Starbucks,” which tells us in bits and snippets how Starbucks shapes our lives.

Kevin DeYoung, in a great post at his Gospel Coalition blog, cuts through a lot of the baloney with some great insights. For one, he says churches have almost nothing to learn from how to be a “community” from Starbucks. Rather, DeYoung says, you would do better reading Ephesians. As far as coffee culture, don’t get too wrapped up in being cool or uncool, hip or unhip. You’re not saving the world with you five-cent donation, but enjoying coffee and coffee house trappings is not the worst thing in the world either. Enjoy your coffee, by all means, but love your neighbor as yourself. That’s good advice from the Bible, not a coffee cup.

Lukewarmness and the call of a football coach

I came across this video of former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach today and it just struck me as amazing. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Leach was a very successful coach at Texas Tech for several years before he was fired just before the team’s bowl game in December. He is not a conventional person and has been viewed as a loose cannon. His firing came in the wake of allegations he locked one of his players in a closet after that player had suffered a concussion. He is a man who has his own methods and has been portrayed as someone who speaks freely, whether it is seen as correct or not. There are many who admire him for his candor and boldness.

Because he felt unfairly treated by the university in being fired, his story has not gone away quietly. Thus, the video is something that has come to light recently, showing how he addressed his players during this past season as a way of showing what kind of character he has. What I found interesting about the video was that in it he addresses those on the team who were Christians, the ones he referred to as “the God Squad.” On one hand, he acknowledges the way the publicly show their faith, yet he is derisive as well. I found it revealing in the way he told them they need to be focused on playing football and not let their prayers distract them from that goal. He even misapplies scripture from Revelations about Jesus “spewing out” the lukewarm believers of Laodicea as a way of saying he doesn’t want half-hearted players.

There are so many things to think about in this. Even though Mike Leach comes across as harsh, I think he fairly represents the way a lot of people view Christianity. It is something that is all right to have, as long as it doesn’t interfere with “real life.” Many people who actually consider themselves Christians may share this view. Is that what God is saying in I Corinthians 10:31 when he says “so whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God”? That verse is not pointing to a compartmentalized Christianity but rather a faith that seeps out of every area in your life. Certainly, it means to strive for excellence in everything you do (which someone like Mike Leach could appreciate). But it doesn’t mean that are areas where it must take a back seat. We are citizens of heaven first and foremost.

Now, I understand a football coach trying to motivate his players to strive for excellence. The point to remember is that if we call ourselves Christians, it does not mean that we set aside the tasks in life that we are faced with in order to serve God. Half-hearted, mediocre football players don’t bring glory to God as neither do half-hearted coaches, teachers, parents, students or whatever. We work hard, not because that is our goal, but because it shows that we are humbly looking to God as our all in all.

The purpose in the passion of Jesus Christ: Why one man’s death matters

This month, like every other month, christianaudio.com is offering a free download of an audiobook. In fact, this month’s deal is even better than in past months because they are offering not one but two free downloads: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” is free along with John Piper’s “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die.”  If these books are not in your library, then this is a great time to add them. To get them for free, all you have to do is go to the page for each audiobook, add it to your cart and then when asked for add coupons or promotion codes enter MAR2010 for the Bonhoeffer audiobook and MAR2010B for the Piper audiobook. After that you will be given a page with the files to download.

Since we are in the lenten season and Easter is just over a month away, I thought it would be good to look through “Fifty Reasons” and see why it matters — not just for Christians, but for all of humanity — why Jesus came to die. It has been said that there is no one who has anyone against Jesus. After all, he is viewed by people of all stripes favorably depending on your world view and what you seek to advance. His death by crucifixion brings the most important question of that time or any time in history: Why did Jesus have to die?

Beyond the human cause, which some would point to, there is a deeper cause if you explore the Bible. John Piper explains in the introduction of  “Fifty Reasons”:

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). The Christian New Testament says, “[God] did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “God put [Christ] forward . . . by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).

But how does this divine act relate to the horribly sinful actions of the men who killed Jesus? The answer given in the Bible is expressed in an early prayer: “There were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus . . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). The depth and scope of this divine sovereignty takes our breath away. But it is also the key to our salvation. God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, great good has come to the world. To paraphrase a word of the Jewish Torah: They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).

And since God meant it for good, we must move beyond the question of human cause to divine purpose. The central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the purpose—the meaning. Man may have his reasons for wanting Jesus out of the way. But only God can design it for the good of the world. In fact, God’s pur- poses for the world in the death of Jesus are unfathomable. I am scraping the surface in this little book as I introduce you to fifty of them. My aim is to let the Bible speak. This is where we hear the word of God. I hope that these pointers will set you on an endless quest to know more and more of God’s great design in the death of his Son.

There is so much to learn from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that we will spend less time thinking about meals, clothes, candy and gatherings at Easter and more about what the Jesus Christ accomplished not only in history but for our lives. In the coming days I will be going through the chapters of this little book. If you are not a big reader (and it is not a big book at all to read), you can go download the audiobook for free so you can follow along. If you do like to read, Desiring God offers the book for free online as a PDF download. Either way, take some time to think about the death of the most important man in history and what purpose it served.

Describing the indescribable: Depression

We all have our days that are not as good as others. Depression is something that some struggle with more than others. My heart goes out for those that struggle because I have struggled as well. That is why I found this poem, written by Sue Lubbers, to be something helpful. The idea that a Christian can struggle with depression is not foreign. David Murray, writing at the Gospel Coalition blog, says it well:

Three things make this poem especially touching. First, it was written by a Christian, which actually adds another layer to the suffering. The Christian with depression not only loses physical energy, intellectual ability, and emotional activity, but the most precious thing in their life feels lost – their spiritual relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Second, the poem is breathtakingly honest. It does not attempt to gloss over or minimize the horrific thoughts and feelings that stalk and haunt the soul in this desolate valley. It is so far removed from the shallow and artificial triumphalism of so much of modern Christianity. It is much more reminiscent of the deep and realistic piety we find in many of the Psalms, in Job, and in Jeremiah.

Third, the poem holds out great hope for those still passing through these deep waters. To get maximum benefit, don’t read across the two columns. Rather, read the whole of the first column. Then start reading down the second column, comparing it as you go with the parallel line in the first column. What a transformation! The Lord has revolutionized this dear believer’s life. If you, or a loved one, are still in column one, then read column two and see what our almighty and gracious God can do in the most desperate of situations.

Some of us will battle this constantly, but there is hope in a mighty, loving, caring God who is there.

The daily earthquake of abortion is right in your back yard

On Jan. 12, 2010, a deadly earthquake hit Haiti. It has been estimated that anywhere from 150,000 to maybe up to 500,000 people lost their lives in this tragedy. There is still much suffering as many who have survived have been left homeless. There are many ways you can help beyond being there physically. Among many choices you can consider I would offer Compassion International, which works with children and their families, and Food for the Hungry. I cannot strongly enough urge you to help in whatever way you can.

Since that day when the major quake hit Haiti, there has been an equally devastating human tragedy that has hit among the most defenseless people in our society. I am talking about abortion. There are some estimates that 3,000 babies in the United States and 130,000 babies worldwide are killed by abortion. John Piper puts it in perspective in his sermon on his observance of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday yesterday at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

There are about 3,000 abortions a day in the United States and about 130,000 a day worldwide. Which means that the horrific, gut-wrenching reality of Haiti’s earthquake on January 12 happens everyday in the abortion clinics of the world. And it is likely that if the dismemberment and bloodshed and helplessness of 130,000 dead babies a day received as much media coverage as the earthquake victims have—rightly have!—there would be the same outcry and outpouring of effort to end the slaughter and relieve the suffering.

Americans have been giving 1.6 million dollars an hour for Haiti Relief for the last ten days—a beautiful thing. I hope you are part of it. It is so unbelievably easy to give with phones and computers. But the funding and resistance to the suffering of the silent, hidden destruction of the unborn is not so easy. So the 3,000 babies who are crushed to death every day in America by the earthquake of abortion go largely unnoticed.

If you have been compelled to perhaps adopt a Haitian child because they have been left orphaned, how much more so should you consider adopting a child that may be aborted. Is there really any difference? The point is not that we should do less for situations like the one in Haiti, but rather that we should not ignore a far greater tragedy in our society. As I sat in my own church on Sunday I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that nothing was mentioned about this tragedy. It is much safer to be concerned about Haiti. I hope we can muster our courage to change that.

A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Piper examines sex, race and God’s sovereignty in his new book

John Piper’s latest book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God is now available. In it, he examines the book of Ruth and how it’s themes are relevant in the 21st century. From the publisher:

The sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity, and the gospel of God’s mercy for the undeserving-these massive realities never change. And since God is still sovereign, and we are male or female, and Jesus is alive and powerful, A Sweet and Bitter Providence bears a message for readers from all walks of life. But be warned, Piper tells his audience: This ancient love affair between Boaz and Ruth could be dangerous, inspiring all of us to great risks in the cause of love.

Chronicles of Narnia update: Dawn Treader movie heading into troubled waters

It appears that the long-delayed movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia series, has finally wrapped in Australia. And the word is that Michael Apted, who some had feared as a poor choice to direct the feature, has done nothing to prove his critics wrong. Julia Duin, writing recently in the Washington Times, says Apted seems intent on backing off the Christian theme in the book:

“Voyage” director Michael Apted, who has admitted to excising a lot of the religious connotations out of his 2007 film “Amazing Grace,” sounds double-minded.

The Narnia films, he told Rhema FM, a New Zealand Christian radio station, “present a challenge, for me to put the material out there in an evenhanded and interesting way; and not to be, in a sense, narrow-minded about it, either narrow-minded in a faith way or narrow-minded in an agnostic way. I have to open my heart to what the stories are about.”

“Narrow-minded in a faith way”? That’s going to rev up Christians to see this movie.

This truly is disappointing since many fans of C.S. Lewis’ work had been eagerly waiting to see how these literary treasures would be made into movies. When Disney bailed on the series in Decenber 2008 after The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian (which already started to drift from the series’ Christian theme), there was much doubt as to whether the series would continue. Fox picked up the series and Dawn Treader, which was scheduled for a May 2009 release, was pushed back to May 2010. Now, Druin reports, the movie will be released in December. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not that you couldn’t enjoy the movie, it’s just that knowing what the books are like and then seeing the story altered in ways that I’m sure Lewis would be displeased with would be a huge letdown.

As before, my advice would be to find the books. Read them, both for your own sake and your children’s. See exactly what Apted thinks is so “narrow-minded.”

HT: Trevin Wax