"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
A Greater Treasure
A medical doctor recently said that socialistic healthcare is inevitable. His rationale was a simple deduction,
"People are too scared to die; they will therefore spend every cent of other people's money in order to stay alive."
This quote is not only insightful for our present political direction, it is also expressive of what characterizes an earthly minded person.
Christians are supposed to be heavenly minded people. Their treasure is in heaven and their hearts are knit to that place where God resides.
As such, the Christian's mind should generally turn towards heaven. He will regularly reminisce upon its nature, excellence, glory, and blessedness.
His mind will naturally flit there. It is a subject that fills him with wonder, sparks his curiosity, and inflames his heart's desires.
Thus, the idea of death is radically different for us than it is for our current culture. We do not scrape and claw with every ounce of our energy (and every penny of our neighbor) to to maintain our mortal existence. We are well prepared to die and let nature take its course.
Unlike the unbeliever, we happily leave an inheritance to our children's children. Doctors and hospitals do not need to eat up our life savings, for we have a greater treasure to inherit in the world to come.
While a Christian will not ever think to speed death along, he does have a healthy anticipation of it. For to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Or, in the words of the 19th c. English preacher, John Angell James,
He would instantly dissolve his ties with earth and, leaving his family and connections, fly the next moment to his eternal home. He is willing to wait as long as it is His heavenly Father's will to detain him upon earth, but he is willing to leave all and go to God whenever it is judged proper by Him to decide that he should go up to the mount and die.
In the advent season, our minds may all the more be raptured and caught up into the skies. We will likely think of his second coming and how our lives will be radically changed when he parts the clouds:
There will always be those who see death as a curse to be avoided. However, we as Christians have a different attitude. For those of us in Christ, death truly comes a blessing. When this mortal life is done, we shall die to sin and revel in the riches of heaven.
Jolly Ol' Christmas Time
Join us this Friday December 13 @ 7pm at Hedstrom for a joyous time of fellowship. You'll have a merry time of song, music, Scripture, & entertainment. Families may bring a finger food / appetizer to share afterwards if able.
Baptism & New Member Reception
This Lord's Day we will have the blessed opportunity to receive the Keener family into membership. Josiah Ott will also be making his formal profession of faith and will be baptized during the service.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ
have put on Christ.
I Am Baptized!
The Ongoing Significance of the Sacrament
A company in town recently had a "grand opening," complete with ribbon cutting ceremony with all the big wigs in town present: the mayor, city counsel members, chamber of commerce heads, etc. Speeches were given, sales were had, smiles were flashed, and hope for a wonderful addition to the community was created.
Another company has prospects for opening. The big wigs were all present again for the ceremonial first shovel of dirt as they broke ground for their new building project. Speeches were made, smiles were given, and anticipation for the completed building (and its ongoing merchandising) was created.
Imagine if everything stopped there. Imagine if after the ribbon cutting, everyone went immediately home and the store closed its doors.
That would be a real bust.
Yet this is how our baptisms are often regarded. They are usually seen as a "one and out" type ritual. Now it is something long ago and far away.
Though our baptisms may only happen once in our lives, this blessed ritual is to continue to have significance for us all through our lives.
Theologians call baptism an "initiatory rite." It's God's ribbon cutting that portrays the fact that we've just entered the kingdom of God through our union with Christ and His pardon of sin.
But we can also think of baptism as an "anticipatory rite." It anticipates a long walk with Christ, growth in faith, and a full salvation that is yet to come.
That's why we are to always remember our baptism, reflect upon it, and be challenged by it. Whether we remember the actual day of our baptism or how wet we got does not matter. What matters is that it happened. And we must bring that reality to bear on our lives.
We need to understand its reality and apply its significance regularly for our ongoing life. From time to time it is even good to say to yourself, "I've been baptized! I've been marked out as belonging to God. He's branded me as His own and washed me of my sin."
You wear your wedding ring each day, just like you "wear" your baptism. The water may have long dried up, but you've still been marked by the rite. And like the wedding ring, your baptism is to preach to you on a daily basis.
Your wedding ring reminds you of important truths: I'm loved; I'm united to my spouse; I have vows to keep.
Similarly, your baptism is to be a constant reminder of how you are loved by God, set apart to him, and have vows to keep towards him.
Paul wrote to the Galatians about baptism. These were not new converts getting ready to be baptized. They were already baptized members of the church. But he set their baptism before them and reminded them of its significance for their present lives:
"All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
Paul was telling the Galatians: You've been baptized! You need to remember that. You need to remember that you have a new identity. You have new opinions, new desires, and should be demonstrating new actions keeping with that identity!
Though the water may have dampened your clothes long ago, it should not ever evaporate, spiritually speaking. You need to continue to work out the implications of your baptism and draw strength from the realities which it signifies.
The leadership will be conducting interviews for membership, professions of faith, and baptism after morning services on December 8th. Anyone who would like to meet with the leadership is invited to contact us to schedule an interview.
LEARN MORE: Membership at Hopewell | Is your child ready to profess faith?
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge.
Here I Stand;
I Can Do No Other
Making God Alone the Lord of Your Conscience
Today we remember Luther's nailing of the 95 Thesis, the spark that ignited the Reformation. And it is here we remember that our consciences are bound by no other authority than the Word of God.
We live in a day of many laws, pontifications, and advisements. From the Dear Abby column to the halls of Congress, from religious leaders to health guru's, we are bombarded with the mantra: "This is what you must do."
Yet the Reformational principle that resonates through history is this: our conscience as Christians is to be held captive by the Word of God. No other authority has primacy over us, for "we must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
In this respect Christians can be rigid and inflexible. They may be known to be annoying, roadblockers, and dissident. They have practiced civil disobedience and are willing to be fed to the lions because they know that Christ (and He alone) is to be obeyed. They have objected, opposed, and even started wars because the Word of God was regarded as the only supreme rule over their life and conduct.
Luther's firm standing at the Diet of Worms (1522) was just as (if not more) important than his 95 Thesis (1517). Luther was called before Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and various high officials in the Roman Catholic church. In that assembly he was expected to recant his writings, wherein he expounded on the doctrines of justification by faith alone, the authority of Scripture, and the folly of indulgences.
"Here I stand; I can do no other," was his reply. In those words Luther gave vivid expression to his conviction that the Scripture was the inspired Word of God, who's authority outweighed that of the pope. He would not back down, even though his life could have easily been taken at that very moment, being executed as a heretic of the church.
Christ himself demonstrated this spirit when he walked the earth. He did not tolerate the extra biblical commands that the religious leaders touted. When standing before Pilate and Herod, he remained a silent protester against the absurdity of their courtroom demands.
Jesus had come to do the will of His Father and no one could enslave his soul.
It is true, there have been some men who have died for their convictions despite their beliefs not being founded upon the Word of God. But they have been few and far between.
Modern man, in particular, tends to be quite pliable. He often goes with the flow and bends to every whim that comes down the pike. That's because there isn't much spine in someone who puts man and man's thought up as his authority.
He will likely bow down and cow-tow to any law that is passed, any decree that is made, and any advice that is given. He may make a stink about it, but he'll eventually conform because he has no firm standard by which to live. He is governed by men and standards of men and is blown here and there by them, especially if it means having comforts or their very life taken away.
Yet Christians have been known as protesters (Protestants), Non-conformists, and dissenters throughout their history. They have been fed to lions, sent to the stocks, imprisoned, buffeted, burned, and beheaded, because their faith has been built upon the solid rock of God's infallible truth.
Even at Hopewell our leadership says, "Look to the Scripture." We do not want anyone to blindly follow what we say or do. No pope, pastor, prince, priest, or politician should have ultimate governance over you.
Rather, it should be as the old Presbyterians used to say,
"God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any respect contrary to the Word of God."
Date with a Mission!
Let's help the Ott's raise funds for their adoption and deepen relationships at the same time. Invite a friend or two to go out for a date on Wednesday Nov. 6th. Go to BW3's in Ashland and show the ticket. The Ott's will receive 20% of the dinner's proceeds.
Ashland City School officials are developing a new program. The goal is to provide mentors for parents whose children are in the city schools. These mentors are to occasionally meet to provide practical guidance on parenting and decision making. Several families have already requested assistance. Request more information on becoming a mentor.
The plans of the diligent lead to profit.
The Scriptures speak about money more than any other topic. Approximately 2000 passages deal with the topic in some way or other. In the gospels alone, one out of every four verses deals with money.
Many other passages draw from the economic world. Redemption, ransom, forgiveness, sin-debt, are all terms that have financial undertones.
This only highlights how much of our lives should be dedicated to developing faithfulness in stewardship. But how do we do keep from feeding the urge to get and acquire? How do we honor God and keep from falling into the trap of materialism? Scripture is clear in its guidance.
1. The Power of "No."
This one word can kill off the materialism germ significantly. The disciplined power of delaying gratification and resisting the urge to impulsively buy shows that your heart is governed more by God than by things.
Esau's unbelief was expressed in how he rashly bought that fateful pot of stew. He was governed by passion and the moment, not reason and self control.
While a "hope deferred may make the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12), it is a fruit of the Spirit to be able to say, "No, I don't really need that right now."
2. Contentment vs. the Splurge
From whence does that "power of no" come? It flows from a heart that rejoices in God and His supply. We don't need to splurge and spend when we recognize the immense generosity of God in all that we already have.
Of course, the key to contentment is the upward focus. It's being immensely satisfied with God, and not so much the stuff He's bestowed upon us. Someone who can be content with the older model, the second hand buy, or with not having in the first place is someone who has made the Lord his greatest yearning above all else.
3. Keeping up with the Jesus
One doesn't feel the need to keep up with the Joneses if he's keeping up with Jesus. If you are not nurturing your relationship with Christ through regular worship, personal devotions, and prayer, let's admit it: you will be more susceptible to a spirit of materialism.
The Lord uses the means of grace to squelch our raging fleshly passions. We gain new desires and are conformed more to the image of Christ as we fellowship with God.
To put it another way, when you are worshipping God, you will be less apt to worship your wallet.
4. Plan a Budget & Diligently keep it
Growth takes diligence, accountability, and self control. A budget is just that for our finances.
Developing a detailed budget helps to set parameters on what we can and cannot have. It tells us "You can't have that," and makes us cut certain things out.
On the positive side, a budget will tell us what we really value. We're forced to say, "I'm putting this amount towards the Lord." Or it reminds us that diapers are more important than yet another trip to Macy's.
5. Spend, Save, Give Principle
That is biblical stewardship in a nutshell. We buy what we need, save what we can, and give with intentionality and liberality as much as we can.
Let's not forget about saving too. Too often teaching on stewardship focuses on spending and giving. But there's a great deal in Scripture about investing, saving, and building wealth for the future (and future generations).
Use Jars with Your Kids to Teach the Give, Spend, Share Principle.
6. All the Cool Kids Do It
Being cool is expensive. It is also vanity. When we value prestige and admiration, it's going to cost us. On the other hand, if we have our minds set on being esteemed by God, there will be less incentive to bust the bank on the latest fashions, phones, and trends.
7. What do you Value?
Do you value what the Bible values? If you do, you'll have a completely different financial focus.
For instance, what are your thoughts on kids? The world today prefers big vacations and exotic trips; that means fewer kids. But Scripture says that having children is a heritage (note the financial language again) from the Lord. In sum, kids have much more value in the eyes of God.
Take another example: Scripture commends the accumulation of wisdom over and above the accumulation of wealth. Wisdom is greater than gold (Pr. 16:16) and more precious than rubies (8:11). If you believe this, it will likely make a difference in what (and how much) you accumulate in life.
All this is to say, if you value what what the Lord values, there's going to be different spending priorities.
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More on Money
Want to delve further into some of those 2000 verses on money? Here is a nifty Bible study and devotional that you can use to further understand what God says about this important topic!
Local Apologetics Conference
Our friends at Covenant OPC are holding their annual conference this Saturday (Oct. 26). This all day conference will take a practical look at how to defend and commend the faith to unbelievers. (Registration is requested)
Do you pray? Okay, good. Now let me ask you this: How do you pray? Do you pray with the firm confidence that the Lord will certainly hear and answer your prayers?
I want you to pray, and I want you to pray OUTRAGEOUS prayers. When I say outrageous, I mean prayers that would seem to be completely absurd and virtually impossible. World impacting, life changing, kingdom exploding type prayers.
Because you will be heard and God will answer!
How do I know? Because God challenges us to pray. In Psalm 27:8 he says, "Seek my face." This is what I call a 'promissory command.' God commands you to seek his face. It is an obligation that put us under a mandate. But the command implies a promise: God will answer.
God commands us to seek him because he is ready to be found. He will answer our prayer and bring his power and grace to bear on our situation.
The New Testament provides the echo and extended commentary on this verse: Ask, seek, knock. For whoever asks will receive, whoever seeks will find, and whoever knocks, to him the door will be opened.
This command (and implied promise) gives warrant to our prayers. We can be encoruaged to pray. And we can be encouraged to pray for spectacular things.
So be absurd. Ask for the outrageous.
Don't be bashful. God tells us to seek his face.
John Knox was known to pray, "Lord, Give me Scotland or I'll die." He wanted the whole nation to be taken over by the Reformational ideas he was preaching. Was that ludicrous? Absolutely! And God was happy to answer in asounding ways.
Bloody Mary (i.e. Mary, Queen of Scots) said, "I fear the prayers of Knox more than all the armies of England." She feared that protestantism would roll through England and that she'd be unseated by the finger of God simply because a man was passionately pleading with God for the transformation of the nation.
The Heidelberg Catechism cites Psalm 27:8 in its 116th Q&A. It says that we should"
"be firmly assured that, notwithstanding how unworthy we are of it, God will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as he has promised us in His Word."
I pray that you may pray with the confidence that no prayer bounces off the ceiling. May this also increase and enrich your prayer life.
Pray with Spurgeon (.pdf)
Is your prayer life feeling dry? Maybe what you need is a little variety! What better way to spice up your prayer life than praying the prayers of Charles Spurgeon? This ebook contains many prayers composed by Spurgeon. Using it in your daily devotions can bring edification and nuance to your prayer life.
Life is hard. Sometimes you need help dealing with your issues. That's precisely what God's Word does. If you're dealing with "stuff," schedule a time to talk to one of our leaders. They will gladly help you find the way.
"During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him..."
John 13:2 ESV
This Lord's Day we will begin a new study in the gospel of John. We'll be looking at the upper room narative, in particular (chapters 13-17).
As I began my studies, I was struck by how much of chapter 13 is devoted to (of all people) Judas, the Betrayer. Almost a third of the verses center around this fiend of a man.
Even more interesting were the comments by John Gill in reference to verse 2. Gill picks apart what happened to Judas and shows us how his fall into perdition was begotten. Gill gives us an anatomy of Judas' seduction and shows us how each of us should take care to not follow the same route into oblivion.
"Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." We do good to heed this instruction and consider how Judas, a man chosen by Christ and designated to the high office of apostle, was seduced into becoming a Satanic force.
1. Your status means nothing: Judas may have held the most significant ecclesiastical office, but that did not provide any security to his heart. Jesus had chosen him to be an apostle (a leader, a teacher, a miracle worker, etc) and invested him with profound authority. Nevertheless, he was but a man filled with evil appetites. Thus he was not immune from the vilest of temptations.
We do well to remember that no matter our standing, we are constantly dependent upon divine grace to remain faithful. We may climb the corporate ladder or attain a place of prominence within the church, but we are still sons of Adam. We must therefore seek God's favor constantly, asking for Him to guard our hearts and deliver us from the evil.
2. It can happen anytime / anywhere: The verse says that it was "during supper" (or possibly soon before the meal) that Judas' determined to betray our Lord.
There he was, in the presence of Christ himself, enjoying the Passover holiday. He was involved in a rite of worship. It was a religious festival where almost every dinner movement had some sort of spiritual lesson.
Despite the holiness of the occasion, the devilish thought darted into his mind. While hymns were sung, Satanic suggestions echoed in his ears and calcified his heart.
"No place and company can preserve persons from the evil suggestions of the devil," says Gill. So we must remember that though we enter a church building or participate in a worship service, we are still susceptible to untold folly.
The only protection we have is the gracious assistance of the Spirit upholding and preserving us at all times.
3. Your festering sin can open the door to greater misdeeds. Gill points out that in the previous chapter Judas was in a huff over the fact that Jesus was anointed with precious oil. Satan took this opportunity and used it to his diabolical advantage.
"Do not let the sun go down on your anger, lest you give the devil a foothold." Judas illustrates the words of Eph. 4:27.
We must remember that Satan loves warm coals of sin. He will not let them smolder and die out. He takes advantage of it and stokes the irksome attitude to achieve greater villany.
If you can do anything to resist the devil, it is this: Repent quickly and subdue anger. Kill the beast of sin before the Beast of Sin kills you.
As we consider how Judas was seduced, we may learn from his mistakes. We are not ignorant of the wiles of the devil and we can steer clear of them. And, as we seek the Lord's favor and strive to maintain a godly comportment, we can have hope of remaining true to God.
Are you interested in becoming a member of Hopewell? It is a way to make your commitment to Christ more visible and enjoy more of the benefits of Christ's care. Feel free to check out the process for becoming a member on our website. Then let us know your interest; we'd love to talk with you about it.
We'd love for you to join us for worship. If you are looking for a church home, or just a place to learn about Christianity in general, we invite you to visit us Sundays at 10:30 am. We meet in the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics (100 Hedstrom Drive).
Have you ever had the feeling that you missed worship, despite having sat through the entire service? You sang the songs and were there, but it was like driving in open country: you look back and don't remember the last several miles.
It may be that you leave with a blank sheet because you were not properly prepared to engage in it. Worship is much like anything else in that regard. If you just run into a grocery store without a lot of forethought, you're likely going to miss a few things you should have gotten.
How much more true is this in regards to worship, that sacred time of meeting with God?
When the Israelites were to meet with God, they didn't just waltz up to the foot of Mt. Siani. They took two days to consecrate themselves. Washings, meditation, reflection, prayer, repentance, not to mention tidying up any items pertaining to the household and work.
In the NT we read about the "Day of Preparation." (Luke 23:54) Jesus' body was hurriedly stowed away in the tomb because the Sabbath was about to start. The Israelites recognized they needed to get ready for the Sabbath. It was so important that they denominated the Friday before as the "Day of Preparation."
The same holds true for us. Scripture encourages us to maximize worship through intentional acts of preparation. How do we do that? Here are some suggestions:
1. Plan your work and work your plan: Don't let the household chores flow over to Sunday. Make a point to get all your work (occupational and household chores) done prior to Sunday. That way it's not hanging over your head and consuming your mind while you are supposed to be concentrating on things of a more divine nature.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Ex. 20:8
2. Get a good sleep: Everybody knows that "Saturday night live" makes for "Sunday morning dead." By all means, have a great time on Saturdays and enjoy an evening out, but make a habit of getting to bed in good time. A good 7-8 hours of sleep will help keep your eyelids from drooping and your brain from dragging.
3. Devote to Devotions: Just because you're going to church doesn't mean you should skimp on Bible time. Athletes are encouraged to visualize their performance prior to games; to mentally go through their footwork and "get stoked" for the game. In a similar way, taking time to read, reflect, pray, and sing Saturday night or Sunday morning will prime your heart for the main event.
4. Monitor the Mouth: As with any day, a healthy breakfast is vital for one's attention. Binging on donuts or sweets the night before will likely reduce your ability to participate in worship in an engaging fashion.
5. Concentrate on Contrition: Humility breeds worship and repentance paves the way for it. For God can't dwell with sin. Being that this is so, it's always good at the end of a week to look back and take an inventory of the ways you've fallen short. You then can confess these things and fulfill James' admonition to "draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.".
6. Reconcile: You're going to have spats and quarrels, but you shouldn't bring that baggage into worship with you. Scripture behooves you to settle matters quickly and prior to bringing your sacrifice of praise. When you do this, not only will you be honoring God's command, but your mind will be free from replaying the argument in a million ways.
7. Rise & Shine: Sunday is for sleeping in because it is a day of relaxation, right? Sure, but don't get too carried away. You want to leave enough time for your morning routine and for getting out the door in good time. Nothing ruins worship like driving like a wild hyena and shuffling in late to the pews.
8. Pray for the Service: Your time in worship depends quite a bit on the faulty vessels up front. If you really want them to perform well, pray for them. The music and ministry of the Word come with greater beauty and meaning when they are padded with your supplications.
"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored." 2 Thess. 3:1
9. Come Eagerly & Expectantly: Let's not forget that we must tune our attitudes. God's probably going to descend in thick clouds and fire, but you can still find Him if you're looking for Him. Even the worst service can be beneficial if we seek the Lord and the things He would have for us there.
"My soul longs, yes faints, for the courts of the Lord." Ps. 84:2
10. Invite others: No, this is not a cheap way to get you to help grow the church. It is a true means of preparation. When you invite someone, you are planning ahead. You are getting in the "church groove." And besides, there's nothing better than knowing a buddy is going to be there with you in worship.
"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" Ps. 122:1
Now that you know how to get ready for worship, come and fill your soul! Join us this Sunday at 10:30 am for a blended worship. We're located in the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics.
No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
This past week we saw crazy amounts of rain. It's likely that some of it ended up in your basement. For others, much of it ended up in your basement.
If that latter, it likely had some devastating effects: it ruined carpet, equipment, and leaves the lingering possibility of mildew build up.
Then there's the clean up, the bills, and the ever so tight fisted insurance guy with whom you have to deal.
This is just one example of the various providences that come our way on a daily basis. If this wasn't your experience, you can no doubt fill in the blank with your own horror story.
Let's pause here and get some perspective. Put on your Biblical lenses and consider what has happened. Weigh these events from God's point of view:
"The Lord withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly."
If you translate the double negative, it means that God is astoundingly liberal in his goodness. When it comes to His children, He is a fountain that gushes with radical generosity.
You may need to read it again and again to convince yourself. Most do not see the Lord in this light. Typically our theology of God and His goodness is quite impoverished. We see Him as gaunt and comparable to Pharoah's skinny cows.
This ought not to be so. Scripture is clear: God withholds no good thing from his people. The blessings of His covenant are secured in Christ and "the Lord has promised good to me."
Do you think something bad has happened? Do you feel that heaven is against you? Think again.
It is not possible for God to hold back any good from you. The gate of His eternal benevolence is open wide to you and it ever flows in your direction.
You will say, "Why then do I not have riches and health and honor? Why are these good things withheld from me? All I have is a basement full of water!"
If God has given you such things, it was for your good. He is to be praised for it. If He withholds them, it is for your blessed welfare. They would not serve your betterment and advancement in life.
God would rather have you stoop under the pains and difficulties of trials. He would rather cultivate in you humility, dependence, and faith. These are His gems and treasures; they have greater profit than those things which your carnally crave.
Even as you stand in the ankle deep waters of your basement, remember that before you are overflowing buckets of his generosity. So too is the peace of mind that you may have in the midst of it.
Ashland Christian Health Center
This month we are collecting donations for our friends at the Ashland Christian Health Center. Items include: Manilla envelopes, legal size (non-window) envelopes, reams of colored copy paper, rolls of paper towels, Depends pull ups (esp. larger sizes XL and 2 XL), and $20 visit vouchers.
This ministry serves those who lack or have little insurance coverage by providing affordable medical care. Learn more about ACHC
Family Day @ the Lillo's
Come join the fun this Saturday (July 27)! We'd love to have your fellowship as we swim, eat, and hang out. Lunch is scheduled for 1pm, but you can join us anytime in throughout the afternoon. Friends are welcome!
Membership @ Hopewell
Are you interested in membership at Hopewell? Is a young one ready to make a profession of faith / be baptized? We'd love to have that conversation or help you learn more.
Whoever conceals his transgression will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
We have our own version of this proverb. It goes like this: It's my way or the highway.
Yet, when it comes to stubborn persistence in sin, we must recognize that God is not tolerant. He demands holiness in the inward parts.
If someone tries to cover their sin, and does not confess and forsake it, the Lord, you may be sure, will withhold his favorable kindness.
"No sin is too great for him to forgive, but no sin is too small for him to overlook either," said the great commentator, Charles Bridges.
You can easily see how it is excused. It is only a small sin, it is not flagrant or scandalous. It will not do any harm!
Tell that to Adam. A mere bite of an apple plunged all mankind into a world of sin and misery. Ananias and Sapphira know that their concealment had significant penalties attached to it.
When sin is not adequately repented of, the Lord will not allow one to prosper. Death is the wages of sin, and God will allow it to wreak its cursed havoc among those who coddle it.
It's miserable regressions can come in different ways:
Any one or a combination of these pains are the just deserts of sin. The Lord will save the sinner, but the sinner must apply the means God has appointed. He must confess and forsake his sin.
So do yourself a favor. When your sin is brought to your attention, take it to the Lord. Flee from it and find reprieve from its devastating effects. Enjoy the fruit that comes by means of confessing and forsaking it.
What is Reformed Theology?
What makes Hopewell distinct? One of the most significant factors is our commitment to Reformational theology. You can get to know our beliefs through this wonderful study series by RC Sproul. (Available in audio & video)
Suggest a Song
Is there a song you've been wanting to sing in worship? Do you have a tune you'd like to see if we can add to our repertoire? We're always open to your suggestions. Just let us know what you'd like & we'll see what we can do!
The Lord is to be praised for His great blessing upon our weekend of camping. We enjoyed the graces of wonderful weather, blessed times of worship, and dear comradery. What a grand testimony to His goodness to us.
Don't let those whippersnappers in the Bible Bee show you up. Let them be your stimulus; may the lisping of babes ordain praise from us.
This last Sunday evening I had the great joy of attending our Bible Bee Kickoff. Our meeting space was crammed with kids who were intent on being in God's word for the next 10 weeks.
It's a joy to know that these kids (and their parents) will be plowing through memory cards, study sessions, and the dynamics of the Hebrew language.
But I'd like us to do more than simply say, "Good for them!" I'd like us to be prodded on by their example. I want to challenge you to memorize some Scripture this summer.
Scripture memorization is not just a good discipline, it is biblical.
Memorizing Scripture also benefits us in so many ways. We become more apt to share it, live it, teach it, and be conformed unto it.
Do you want to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)? Do you know how that happens? It isn't by a mystical lightning bolt that is thrown from heaven or through some trippy seance. It is through Scripture memorization. If you compare Eph. 5: and Col. 3:16, you'll find that being filled with the Spirit and letting the word dwell in you richly is synonymous.
For this reason, I invite you to create your own Bible Bee. Take the next two months to cauterize a few Scripture verses into your mind.
Break out those note cards and write it down. There's one of the first proactive ways to latch it to your brain. That hand-mind coordination does miracles in terms of learning.
Say it loud; say it proud. When you do, it reinforces the muscle reflex in your noggin and helps to anchor it down.
Pray it. If you are memorizing Psalm 84: "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. My heart longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord." Make that your prayer. Pray that you'd have that longing for worship. Ask the Lord to fill our church with people who are fainting for communion with hm.
[Did I make a mistake? Don't laugh. I sought to write that verse from memory.]
Want to be hip and cutting edge? Then try the Bible Memory App. This program is pretty neat. You'll learn Scripture by typing it out several times and in different ways.
No matter what method you chose, it comes down to the age old act of repetition, repetition, repetition. Each time you repeat a verse, it is hammered more securely into your soul.
Again, the challenge is to dedicate yourself to this one discipline for just two months. In the next 8 weeks, you could easily learn 8 verses. You may even begin with the words of Jesus...
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7
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It is my opinion that the eternity of God is one of the most supreme, mind bending, and worship inducing attributes. When we comprehend the Scripture's teaching on it, it leaves us almost breathless.
This doctrine will not only wow your soul and induce a profound awe within you, it will also prove practical for your personal peace and outlook on life.
Let's take a quick gander at what it means that God is eternal that we may reap some of these blessed fruits.
When we talk about God's eternal nature, we understand it relates to his being infinite in relation to time and it may be divided into three sub categories.
1. God exists at every point in time. That is to say, God has existed from the very beginning up until the present. There never was a time when he was not. As Ps 90:2 says, "From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God." (See also 102:12)
The beasts of the earth and much of the created world has a beginning and an ending. Men and angels have a beginning, but no ending. But God is unique in that he never had a beginning and shall exist forever. He always has been and always shall be.
2. God transcends time. It should be recognized that time is a part of creation. It came into being when God spoke and brought matter into being (Gen. 1.1). For this reason we must remember that God cannot be confined to time and space. He exists outside of time and was before time.
[See what we did there? We said God is "before" and "outside" time. We are using concepts of time and space to talk about how God is beyond time and space...you're starting to see some of how mind bending this is!]
3. God sees all of life at once. Okay, get ready. This is a tough one to grasp. Being eternal, God does not exist or think in terms of past, present, or future like we do. God is and he sees all of eternity at once.
The best way I can illustrate this is to compare it to being at a store that sells TV's. Usually there are 10 different TV's on, each with its own show being projected. It's like you're watching 10 different stations at once.
Crude illustration, I know. But you can kind of get the point. God sees every point of history all at once.
2 Peter 3:8 says that a "day is like a thousand years" to the Lord. This is not just saying God's time table is different than ours. It is expressing the idea that the whole of time is essentially all the same moment to God.
To put it another way, we could say that all time is nothing to God because, in the nature of God, all is eternity.
Whew. Incredible stuff! It certainly makes you say, "Who is a god like this?" and encourages within you a spirit of worship.
But, as I said before, there are many other practical blessings that drip from this tree. Chief among them are the consolations afforded in our own eternal life. Eternity is forever and we shall enjoy living every day of it because of Christ's saving grace. This life, even if we had lived from the first creation to its end, would be small in comparison to its wide extents.
This is why Paul talks of our "light momentary affliction" being nothing in comparison to the "eternal weight of glory." Many of our troubles will seem light when we remember that at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Join us for Worth-ship
Hopewell Church meets each Sunday to offer our homage to the God of all glory. We welcome you to come and find your enjoyment in God with us.
Oh What a Fellowship!
We want to invite you and your family to join us at the Lillo Pad for our annual campout June 7-9. There will be swimming, games, fellowship, food, and much, much more. Invite your friends, pitch your tents, and have a great time.
Employers have the unique opportunity to use their position in the world to influence people for the gospel. It doesn't just have to be limited to playing Christian radio in the background. There are many ways that a company can create an atmosphere where Christ is known and proclaimed.
Here are a few suggestions...
1. Share your company's mission, goals, and philosophy of business.
As a Christian, your business isn't about making profits and bringing home a load of cash. A man of God knows that his calling in life is to serve God and his neighbor. His vocation is merely an extension of that.
So be open about it and let people know it. Hold meetings and gather your employees to go over what you're ultimate reasons are for existing. Share with them how God is saved you and how you want this business to be done for him and his glory. Have handouts that state that your mission is to "Faithfully serve the Savior of men, Jesus Christ, by providing great widgets and customer service."
You don't have to be long or "preachy" in your presentations. Lucid brevity can be quite powerful. You'll also have numerous opportunities if you take the long term approach.
All in all, you want people in your company to be on board with your mission anyway. So why not use this opportunity as a public witness?
2. Meet with your employees individually & build a relationship with them.
Yes, you are a busy. You have work to do too, we understand. But make efforts to connect with someone each week. Take them to lunch or have them into your office for a quick chat.
During that time, you can encourage them and express your gratitude for having them. Most importantly, ask how they are doing, see if there's any needs that they have, and ask how you can be praying for them. And, of course, take a second to pray for them right there.
You will be showing real care for them and, when they do have problems, they may seek you out. This can lead to greater opportunities to share the truth of Christ with them.
3. Bring your pastor in and introduce him to your employees
As an entrepreneur you know the power of networking. As a pastor, I can say that it's difficult to get out and meet new people. Evangelism is tough because I'm typically interacting with Christians. The good news is that Christian businessmen can help build bridges between their employees and their church by having their pastor in from time to time.
Introduce your pastor at a company meeting. Let him come to the company picnic. Every quarter or so, have him walk with you through the company and have a quick chat with your labor force. Connect him individually with those who are under your leadership.
If you know that one certain person is having some problems (maybe in their marriage, children), tell them that your pastor can be of help. Have your pastor pray for them right there on the floor of the shop. Let them know that they have a network of care and counsel right at their disposal.
4. Provide Biblical counseling
Want to have your employees get over their drug addiction? Why not offer them meetings with a biblical counselor? Are they consistently late? They likely have issues/habits with which a biblical counselor could help.
Keep in mind too that Biblical counselors have as their first goal sharing the gospel with their counselees. If they are unbelievers, then the counselor will spend a great deal of time pointing out that this is their greatest need (and that their current problem is due to their failure to love and honor God).
If there are fees, perhaps you can cover them. You may even be able to provide incentives for them to meet with those counselors too. The key is connecting your workforce with godly advisors.
5. Hold seminars and studies.
Some companies have safety meetings, health seminars, or conferences on planning for retirement. Similar information could be given for parenting, marriage, addiction, or money management.
All you need to do is consider the needs of your laborers. Maybe a 3 week study on depression would help several in your midst. Or how about some classes on anger?
If your company isn't big enough to hold a seminar, no sweat. Let it be a small group Bible study. Or, if you really want to go all out, coordinate it with other businesses, involve churches, or invite the wider community. It could even be a function put on by your church, but held at your business location.
6. Take employees to Christian business functions
Does your town have a Christian business leader group that meets for prayer or Bible study? Ask one of your workers to attend with you. Doing this will give them a chance to hear God's word or see the love and care Christians have.
While at these meetings introduce your employees to the other members of the group. You can help them make good contact with the other mature men and women who attend. So, not only can they hear the message and witness the testimonies, they can begin to make meaningful connections with other solid Christian people.
These are just a few effective ways to use your business and position as a means of introducing your personnel to Christ. The thing to remember is that God has placed you in a position of authority and that gives you special opportunities as a leader.
Are there things that you've done that have influenced the workforce for the Lord? What have you done to disciple employees or connect your company to the church? Post your ideas below!
Many of us have had that universal, public embarrassment. If it didn't hurt and if the laughs/snickers didn't shame us to no end, we'd think it was funny too.
For me, it always seems to be lawn chairs (yes, it's happened repeatedly). Over the course of a summer the metal frame becomes more and more malleable. Plopping down in the seat eventually takes its toll and the aluminum bends just a touch more with each sitting.
At some point it can take no more. Usually, at the most inconvenient time, it breaks... and down I go, sprawling to ground.
The whole fiasco is due to one thing: the unreliability of the lawn chair. Because the chair is flimsy and suffers mutation, it will let you down (literally!).
Herein lies the great comfort that the God of Scripture affords. Scripture repeatedly mentions the fact that our God does not change. Unlike lawn chairs, we can fully trust in him because he will always be the same.
James tells us that we can trust God to fill our needs. He says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." Ja 1:17
The Book of Hebrews tells us that we can persevere through adversity because, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Heb. 13.8 That is to say, Jesus has helped his people in the past and will continue to be their aid in the present. All in all, it is a promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us.
The prophet Malachi reminds us that, because of God's unchanging nature, we can trust that the Lord will save us in the day of judgment. "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." Mal. 3.6
It may be rightly said that God is the only true being, everything else in this world (including ourselves) is a "becoming." We are constantly seeing change, in our environment, our relationships, in our attitudes, and in our very physic.
We have a right to be wary of all these things. But not so with God. God is the constant. He cannot improve or be diminished in any way. For, "from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." Ps. 90:2.
We can truly say that he is worthy of praise because there is none like our God. There is no god like our God. Jehovah proves himself worthy of our worship and trust as the only one who is faithful and true.
You are Invited!
We want to invite you and your family to join us at the Lillo Pad for our annual campout June 7-9. There will be swimming, games, fellowship, food, and much, much more. Invite your friends, pitch your tents, and have a great time. (Click the pic above for food info; Sunday worship will be held at the site).
Grow in the Faith!
Feeling spiritually stagnant? Looking for a fresh challenge or way to grow in your faith? Talk to us about being part of a Bible study! We're always happy to get into the Scriptures or organize a discipleship group.
Prince Charming and Snow White may have looked like they had a perfect marriage ahead of them, but let's be real. The next day Snow found that the toothpaste tube had been squeezed wrong and the toilet seat had been left up. Prince found nylon stockings hanging on his towel and...well, let's just say that the Dwarf's had exaggerated Snow's ability to cook.
Does this put "happily ever after" in jeopardy? Not at all. All couples have problems. Many couples have LOTS of problems. But they can still have a wonderful life together if they commit to dealing with their problems God's way.
Some of the best marriage advice comes from Paul's admonition to not let the sun go down on your anger. Husbands and wives will find that their joy increases when they commit to resolving their problems and not carrying them to bed each night.
Imagine the scenario again: Prince finds the stockings dangling over his towel yet again! He's irked by how inconsiderate his wife is. But instead of calmly talking to her about it, he huffs off to put his PJ's on. He throws a pillow over his head and makes his best attempt to sleep on it. In the morning he "hi-ho's" off to work, being happy to be away.
What Prince has done is allow the sin of resentment to build a small, invisible wall between himself and the new Mrs. Charming. Each night this happens, more bricks are added to the wall and more damage is done to the relationship.
[Let's remember Mrs. Charming could be reacting to his resentment in a not-so-good manner too. She may get huffy with his grumpy attitude and becoming embittered herself! Needless to say, happily ever after could be in serious danger as the relationship spirals further downward!]
Is the marriage doomed? Are the Dwarfs going to have to have Snow move back in with them? Not if the couple begins to look to the Lord's way.
Remember that no wall ever has to be built in the first place. Instead of internalizing his anger and letting the sun go down on it, Prince can focus that anger on the problem at hand. He can go to his wife and tenderly speak with her about his annoyance. Perhaps he can even build a special rack for her stockings, so she can hang them in the laundry room.
Even if a wall has been built up over many years and multiple layers of angst exist, the marriage can be restored. Scripture says, "Repent therefore, that times of refreshing may come." God is able to bring times of refreshing to the marriage and restore happily ever after.
God's refreshing grace will only come through repentance though, and each of the bricks that have been laid has to be removed.
Key to this demolition process is personal responsibility. That is to say, each person take care of his own bricks first. Prince may want the "inconsiderate stocking bricks" to be removed, but he must first deal with his own contributions to the wall. Prince needs to humble himself and acknowledge that his lack of godly communication has contributed significantly to the family's troubles.
Thus, the first step to happily ever after would be to do something like this:
"Snow, Things have been difficult as of late, and I recognize a lot of it is my fault. I haven't been open with you or forthright about things on my mind. I want to to ask your forgiveness for that. I think our relationship would be better if I were better at communicating. Being that I have a hard time expressing my feelings, can you be in prayer for me? I really need God's help in this regard."
It may be good to leave it at that for the time being. That's because it's not about them at this moment. It is about you and your sin. Maybe the next day, you can come back with, "I am going to try the communication thing. This is hard for me, you'll recognize. But one of the things I have trouble with is..."
Just like that two bricks have just been removed. The wall is beginning to crumble and the lovely couple is back on track to experiencing their happily ever after.
Need More Counsel?
Do you have issues with which you are struggling? Marriage, family, or otherwise? God's word has the answers to all of life's problems. No matter what difficulties you are facing, the leadership at Hopewell can help you find peace and joy.
Dave and Jane were on their way to their first premarital counseling appointment. As a newly engaged couple they were excited to meet with the minister, but they were also pretty nervous.
To break the tension Dave asked, "What are you hoping to get out of these meetings?" This led to a fruitful discussion. They agreed that they wanted help with communication. Dave knew he needed to learn how to communicate (as many men do). Jane wanted to be able to communicate less mysteriously ("So I can understand what you mean," as Dave put it).
They were also beginning to think about the issue of money too. They both agreed that having some wisdom on saving, spending, and perhaps even combining their wages.
Neither openly admitted it, but each secretly hoped that they might pick up some good tips on helping sex to go well too.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
Needless to say, they were a bit disappointed when the minister said they ought to begin their premarital counseling by talking about God.
As Christopher Ash points out in his book Married for God: Making your marriage the best that it can be, the Bible begins with God and is all about God. And he goes on to state that every marriage be similar. Every marriage must grow out of and be planted in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It should begin with and be all about the Lord and His interests all throughout.
Ash points out that many marriages start off on the wrong foot because they don't have this orientation. Most marriages are self focused.
Most books on marriage do not help in this regard. The best seller, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has as its subtitle, "A Practical Guide to Getting What You Want in Your Relationship."
Do you see the error? It's about getting what YOU want out of YOUR relationship. It would seem that Mars and Venus orbit around ME and not the sun.
Even many Christian books and seminars make the same mistake. They sell themselves as practical guides on how to achieve a "happier" or "more fulfilling" relationship. And sell they do! There is a lot money to be had in the self help, self focused, self gratification marriage line.
It's not that having a happy and fulfilling relationship is bad, or even impossible to achieve. Marriage is a wonderful institution, created for our enjoyment and mutual gratification. It's just that this personal happiness and fulfillment isn't to be our primary focus. It's not to be about me and my happiness.
Marriage is to serve God. It is to be about Him, His purposes, His will, His kingdom, and His desires. Married couples (and those who will be married) should be asking, "What does God want me to be and do here?"
In sum, marriage is far from being about ourselves. It is about denying ourselves. It is a commitment to seeking His pleasure over and against our own.
This is the issues that puts the single person at ease. Singleness is okay, because I'm living for Christ.
This is the answer to those who wonder if their relationship is going to last. Why? Because it is not centered on my own interests. It is centered in who God is to me and what He desires from me.
Those who are courting and asking, "Is this the one? Will I be happy with this person?" may find that their questions are not altogether necessary when they take this perspective.
It is not about you. It's about pleasing the Lord and seeking our satisfaction in what satisfies the Lord.
Today it is common for people to live together and have sexual relations before they get married. The thought is that they need to "test it out" to see if there will be compatibility. It's not surprising that 90% of these relationships don't last.
This common American practice is nothing other than a blind search for fulfillment and happiness in myself and for myself. It is driven by a consumer's perspective: it's is all about ME.
Psalm 105 states the rule by which Christians live : Look to the Lord...seek his face always.
Paul says, "Whether at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him." 2 Cor. 5:9
Neither of these passages are about marriage, per se, but they provide the proper structure for marriage. It is the best counsel one can receive as one gets ready for or lives in their marriage.
I once bought the extra cheap knock off brand of paper towels from the extra-cheap grocery store chain. One spill proved that was a mistake. It may have looked the same as the name brand, but it was a far cry from being the real deal.
Scripture tells us that when we awaken in glory there will be a similar sensation. The highest pleasures of this world will feel like cheap knock offs in comparison to the true heavenly realities that will greet us in that coming land.
When we open our eyes, not only will the bitterness of death be gone, but a radical, new thrill will beam through our souls. The sensations will be familiar, but their quality will be intensified and magnified a thousand times over.
For now we see through a glass, darkly...
now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
That's what Paul is communicating in the above mentioned verse. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul was talking about love and the eternal world. He says we 'know' what the future world will hold, but 'only in part.' We've experienced some of those blessings in this life, but it was only a corrupted fraction of the true and full realities that will meet us in glory.
This is what seeing through a glass darkly means. The mirrors of the ancient world did not render the pristine reflections that we have today. At best, the mirror was a piece of polished brass. It would be like seeing if you were having a good hair day by looking at your reflection in the hood of your car.
Take a gander at the following list. You've enjoyed the blessing of each, right?
The truth is you haven't even begun to experience these things. Your experience was a darkened, mutated expression of the heavenly reality.
The happiest moment on this planet will be like utter sadness in heaven. The best fellowship that you've ever had is just a paltry fraction of the depth of true communion you will have there. You will find your previous friendships to only hatred by comparison.
We've seen the stars at night. They are beautiful to behold. But each of those stars is so distant. There is a sense in which we do not have a full comprehension of that star's true nature. Each of those celestial lights is comparable to (if not greater than) our Sun.
Imagine the overwhelming experience of having looked at one of those stars, then, in a blink, you were face to face with it, as if sitting on the surface of Mercury gazing at the sun.
This is what it will be like when we pass through the river of death. You will come face to face with peace. Yes, you will know what it is. You've witnessed it from afar. But it was the cheap imitation that will not compare to the heavenly endowment.
The peace that will fall upon you there will be of an exceedingly heightened nature. Not only will it be completely undefiled, but its eternal character will make all previous experiences of peace seem like the raging storms of hell.
In that moment of moments, as death's portal gives way, you will be enraptured with the "eternal weight of glory." You will know in the fullest sense of knowing the wonder of heaven.
The Autobiography of John G. Paton
"When I am parched and dry in my own soul the best cure that I know is to pick up and read a good Christian biography." -Unknown
John G. Paton dared to face the cannibals of New Hebrides in order to bring the gospel to this heathen people. This free ebook not only recounts Paton's preparation for and adventures in that faithful mission, but will serve to be a devotional read for young and old alike.
Traveling I-376 into the city of Pittsburg gives you a glimpse into the radical experience that we Christians will have immediately upon death.
Those coming into the city's West End must pass through the famous Fort Pitt Tunnel which burrows straight through the towering Mt. Washington. As you follow the flow of traffic into the tunnel darkness slowly begins to encase you. The light of day fades as you descend deeper into the cavern.
About a mile out in front of you sits a small sheet of white light which is the mouth of the tunnel. The closer you get, the larger and more brilliantly bright it appears to get.
Once you reach it the darkness is immediately rolled back. There before you stands the city's dazzling skyline. The skyscrapers welcome you as the sun's radiant luster pierces your eyes.
To be sure, the city of Pittsburg cannot compare to the infinite wonders of heaven. But the parallel certainly is there. Our eyes will one day darken. This life will fade into oblivion. We will breathe our last. But that will not be the end.
Immediately, a whole new world will greet us. A whole new existence will take possession of us. In that next moment we will instantaneously be stunned by a radically new life, the sensation of which being wholly unimaginable.
On the cross, Jesus lifted the thoughts of the poor wretch dying beside him to that world. Christ consoled his penitence and his earthly suffering with the promise of immortal bliss in the heavenly dimension. That very day he would be with Jesus in Paradise.
Because he had trusted in Christ he was given the full assurance that, though his present existence would end, he would not die. He would be translated into that higher more glorious realm and partake of its infinite riches.
Over the course of the next several weeks, we will try, as best we can, to contemplate that world. Better yet, we'll try to grasp that moment--that moment of moments--that radical, life changing moment which will overwhelm us immediately after our demise.
We will ask ourselves: What will it be like? What will we experience when our eyes open on the other side? Though we will only be able to see through a glass darkly, we will attempt to gain insight into this supernal joy that will be revealed.
Here we simply note it's reality. The promise to every true believer is that upon death he will immediately precede into the fuller experience of his eternal life. Jesus affirms to everyone who dies in Him: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
Mark those words "fuller experience of your eternal life." Those who trust in Christ do not wait for eternal life. We wait for the fuller realization of it.
We know that at death this life will give way to something much more grandiose. But anyone who is in Christ possess eternal life now. Though we do not have the full experience of it, we do have full possession of it. Jesus said of his followers,
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish."
This reality is ours. It is currently ours. And the fuller experience, which is to come, is ours to savor now.
You may even say this: Scripture has not just given us a future hope, but it teases us with it. It gives us little clues and bits of information here and there. The whole of it has not made known, but enough has revealed to whet our appetites and make us crave it.
And over the next few weeks we'll meditate on these clues and begin to let our minds be drawn upward.
We invite you along in this study. We invite you to learn about the vast riches to be revealed. It is our hope that your soul will dabble in the wonders that await us. As we deal with this world's woes, we hope your burdens will be made light by the surpassing glory which is to come.
Learn More about the Afterlife
You can learn more about the future life through our End Times Study ebook. This free download gives you a Scripture based overview of doctrines such as death, life after death, the second coming of Christ, the millenium, and the resurrection.
I take that back, I have one last thought on parenting...or any kind of life with God for that matter. It is this:
You are going to be terrible at it,and that's not altogether a bad thing.
This lesson is so important. It reminds us that God is God and we are not.
Obviously, we are to strive to do our best and serve the Lord with faithfulness. We know we must be as diligent as possible. But let's take a moment and glory in the fact that...
Folly is bound up
in the heart of
GOD IS GRACIOUS
Too often I have heard parents lament the fact that they 1) have not done enough and 2) they have not done it right. But let's throw up our hands together and praise God that He alone is Sovereign and can work above and beyond anything we do, don't do, or do completely wrong.
Let's admit that "folly is bound up in our own hearts" just as much as it is bound up in our child's. We can be honest and admit (and even glory in) the fact that we are inept vessels in the hands of a great God.
The Apostle Paul had kids (spiritual ones) and he expressed the same sentiment. He confessed his weakness openly and reveled in the fact that God's "grace was sufficient" and that His "power is made perfect in weakness."
Take this to heart when your children fail too. You may pour yourself into them and hone every single possible parenting principle down to the tee. Despite your best efforts, they will still fight, hold secrets from you, make their own decisions, etc. God is good that way.
These are God's ways of telling us that it isn't about us. It is His way of humbling us and highlighting our utter dependence upon His supreme authority.
Think about it this way: God was pleased to commit the church into the hands of a bunch of fishermen (I always like to remind people that they were more like fisherboys, because they were likely in their teens and early 20's when Pentecost rolled around).
When it came to the ministry, even the Apostle Paul confessed, "Who is sufficient for these things?" That continues to be the motto of every elder and minister who takes leadership in the church today.
God's own Son even embodied that principle. He had no beauty that we should behold Him. He had no majesty that should attract us to Him. His birth was ignoble. His heritage and ministry was humble. Most of all, he was defeated! He was crucified in weakness.
God delights to use the weak things of the world. The foolishness of men is His instrument of victory.
It doesn't matter if it is patriarchs, pastors, or parents. God loves using bumbling sinners. His chosen tools are those who are severely limited by their ignorance, sin, and ineptitude.
So as you face the frustrations - be it in yourself or in your children - take a moment to revel in it, rather than lament it. God is God, and we are not. God has brought you to the very edge of parenting that you may view in all its splendor the grace, grandeur, and greatness of God.
There's much to be said about applying the rod of discipline. Unfortunately, this series of articles will not touch on many of the beneficial topics in this realm of parenting, such as certain cautions, consistency, and particular "how to's" of discipline.
We simply wish to end this series by saying that discipline is just that: discipline. It is not punishment, per se.
Admittedly, we use those words interchangeably, but there is a technical difference. Punishment has primarily a negative connotation. It has to do with payback and judgment. The Hebrew word "pakad" (to punish) denotes suffering that is issued forth out of anger and comes upon those who are God's hated enemies.
Discipline is much more positive in its force. Well, of course, the paddle may have a 'negative force,' but the idea of discipline is that of discipleship. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word in the above proverb (musar) can also mean "correction" or "instruction." It may very well be called the 'rod of correction' or 'rod of instruction.'
Maybe this is why my parents would often call it 'the board of education'?
The rod, we should understand, is for the purpose of training and looks towards future maturity. It's applied with the hope for improvement and comes forth as a merciful gesture, one which wishes to prevent greater pain/evil down the road.
Punishment, by contrast is vindictive. Punishment could care less about you or your future welfare. It is simply raw justice.
Discipline, on the other hand, may involve punitive measures, but it is not meant to drive one away or create alienation. It's ultimate purpose is much more relational. The person's foolishness is driven away, but not the person himself.
In a word, punishment has to do with retribution and fear while discipline has to do with redemption and grace.
In the gospel, Jesus was punished for our sins. This is why we need not fear God's condemnation. Now that we are God's children, we enjoy the loving discipline (correction) of our heavenly Father. We even welcome it as it does have our best interest in mind.
Our children might not go that far. They may not welcome the rod, but at least we can view it in its proper light. It is merely an extension of our discipleship ministry among our children.
Understanding the rod in this way will bear practical fruit for parenting. If we truly grasp it, a lot of the "how to" and "when to" questions will be largely answered.
Most of all, we will see corporal discipline as a fruitful thing. It will not just be that which we inflict upon our children, it will a tool for helping us develop our children. And, to be sure, it can help develop our relationship with our children.
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We've acknowledged previously that the rod is one of the means God has instituted for correction, self-discipline, and growth in knowledge. The Scripture tells us that it is the tool that the Lord uses to "drive foolishness far from" our children.
To that end we should apply it with good prudence when our children act out. The Scripture above is clear on how effective it is. As a matter of fact, the early American proverb is verification of how much educators believed in it:
"Reading, writing, and arithmetic, all taught to the tune of a hickory stick."
But it must be kept in mind that corporal punishment is not a vindictive action or even purely punitive in its function. It is an act of love.
Folly is bound up
in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline
drives it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15 ESV
To that end, spanking a child reflects God's discipline of us. This Scripture must be heard as an echo of the passage that preceded it. Proverbs 3:11 tells us that the "Lord disciplines those whom He loves." We are exhorted not to despise God's chastisement because it is a sign of His deepest interest in us.
This is part of the reason the world around us seeks so avidly to dissuade us from the use of the rod. They despise it because there is no belief in God, or at least no belief in a God who induces any kind of personal suffering. The god of most Americans is only supposed to relieve suffering. Certainly a 'loving God' would not inflict suffering, would he? That's at least the opinion of our culture.
But true Christians understand that the Lord brings us into obedience through suffering. We know that even Jesus himself, though sinless, "learned obedience through suffering." (Heb. 5:7).
To this end, Christians have an alternative view of human pain and sorrow. Our momentary afflictions are being used by God to develop everlasting virtue. Our heavenly Father lovingly uses Providence as a way to develop our faith and life.
When we spank our children, we understand that the rod's momentary affliction is reflective of God's own principle of love. Far from being an outgrowth of our anger, it is an indication of how much we care and have the child's best interests in mind.
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We will talk about the role of the rod, but not yet. There's something more fundamental that must be kept in mind.
To be sure, corporal discipline is a God ordained means of building character, self-discipline, and wisdom. But it must be understood that it is merely ONE of the means God has appointed. It is a powerful tool, but it is a tool that is secondary. It must be accompanied by liberal use of God's main tool: His Word.
Folly is bound up
in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline
drives it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15 ESV
Note the language Solomon uses. He calls it, not just the rod, but the 'rod of discipline' (or chastisement, correction). The Hebrew word for 'discipline' carries with it the idea of 'instruction,' just as our word 'discipline' connotes the idea of 'discipleship.'
Solomon's wisdom reminds us that the rod is a teacher, but it must be wielded in the hands of one who acts as a teacher. A good spank will communicate, but clear communication must accompany and support what that rod says.
Ultimately, it comes down to one's goal. The foolishness of a child is not pent up in his or her rear. It is bound up in the heart. A child may learn discipline by the rod. But the rod alone will not touch the deepest regions of his/her soul where folly truly resides.
On the other hand, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
To be sure, the rod by itself can be a means of provoking your child to wrath and driving them further into foolishness. For this reason, it must be kept in mind that the rod assumes the use of good communication, regular instruction, and godly exhortation.
This, of course, begins with family worship: The Bible must be opened, read, and applied in the home. Children should also be made to sit through worship as much as they can so that they can hear God's word declared from the pulpit, sung in music, and administered through the sacraments.
Immersion in the Scriptures might not be as dramatic as a paddle, but it is much more dynamic and the power thereof should not be underestimated.
Moreover, when the rod is employed, it should typically be accompanied with instruction and affirmation. Parents should speak to their children about their need of discipline and the reason for it. After physical discipline takes place, children should be given expressions of affection to affirm your love, exhorted in how their behavior should change, directed in repentance/forgiveness, and encouraged through prayer.
In his book "Shepherding a Child's Heart" Ted Trip tells the story of little Charlie, who had been caught stealing money from the church's offering plate. The child was confronted and made to return the money to the pastor. He produced $2 and proceeded to apologize, tears streaming down his face.
The pastor commended the boy and began to explain that this is exactly why Christ came; that God sent his Son to die for people like us who were willing to steal from God and his people. Jesus life and death was for the purpose of making people givers and not takers.
At this Charlie broke into more sobs and drew out another $20 from his pocket. He had prepared to go through the motions and keep back the hefty sum, but the gospel wouldn't let him do that. It reached into the depths of his soul and produced a change of paramount proportions.
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I begin this article without having picked a picture above. I browsed the database of "parenting" and "family" pictures. Most of them have a sunny glow as the silhouetted mother and father skip along hand in hand with their adoring children. An aura of peaceful joy pervades as they gaze lovingly into one another's eyes.
But that just seems a little too perfect for an article on parenting.
Let's face it: Parenting is difficult. Sure, there is love and laughter. There are moments that will be etched upon the heart as golden memories. But there are also a lot of tears, heartbreak, and tough decisions that have to be made along the way.
Why is that? It is because children arrive pre-programed. The factory setting, so to speak, is folly.
This is where Christian parenting begins: knowing the child's true nature and understanding the state of their hearts. Scripture tells us that man is conceived and born in sin (Ps. 51:5). Children are sinners by nature because they have inherited Adam's corruption (Rom. 5:19). As a result, they sin and have a propensity towards all kinds of foolish behavior.
This is what sets Christian parenting apart from most of the world. The prevailing belief is that man is "basically good." This leads to a certain style of parenting (or lack thereof!). They may call it "permissive" parenting or give it more fancy lingo (such as "montessori"). But the idea is that kids don't need a lot of discipline, teaching, or expressed parental intervention.
In the worlds eyes, parents are merely providers of basic necessities - clothes, food, shelter, toys. At best, they provide an environment for the child's success. On the other hand, there are those, like Rousseau and Marx, who believe parents to be a serious detriment to a child's overall personal development!
The Scriptural view is much different. Children have a serious innate problem. They are by foolish by nature. Selfishness, impatience, laziness, discontent, and conceit are riveted into the very fabric of who they are. Thus, they instinctively desire to lie, resist authority, cheat, quarrel, and pursue every other form of folly.
This is why they need wise and godly parents. Parents are God's main tool for ministering to these inward defects. Through a parent's ministry a child comes face to face with God and His interests. The fundamental problems etched upon their souls are engaged and given right direction.
To be sure, parents do not change the heart. This is God's domain of operation. This is why some children may follow in the steps of Esau.
Nevertheless, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, & grandmothers are God's agents in dealing with the heart. Through you folly is addressed, correction is applied, and instruction is given. Through you God chooses to do His normal work of bringing about change. Through you the folly in their hearts can be dislodged and driven far from them.
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Parenting can be tough. It can be even tougher when your children have become adults. But what do you do if your grown child leaves the church and lives a secular life?
Sometimes covenant children do not continue in the faith once they leave the home. While we hope for the best, we know that many children don't end up continuing in the faith.
Parents may feel as though there is nothing they can do. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Parents forever remain the single most effective agent in their child's spiritual nurture.
What's more, Scripture gives us guidelines to how to parent to the glory of God even after they have left the house.
1. Pray: Never underestimate the effectual working of parental prayer (James 5:16). Augustine, who is considered one of the church's greatest theologians, attributes his late-in-life conversion to the prayers of his mother, Monica.
Since it is God who convinces and converts sinners, get on your knees. Pray for their hearts, pray that they meet other Christians, pray that they read and hear Scripture, pray that they may be kept from temptation, pray that they would be convicted repeatedly, pray that they may recollect the spiritual nurture they received in early life (John Newton was converted later in life by remembering Scripture verses which were drilled into him when he was 6 years old).
2. Evaluate yourself and get right with God: Our child's road to repentance may begin with our own. No parent is perfect, but sometimes parents can be guilty of "provoking their child to wrath." Some households have missed the boat on "bringing them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4)
If this is the case, there is no need to wallow in guilt. God's grace covers a multitude of sins. What's more, there is still great opportunities to parent in the adult years. But we need to be honest, confess where we failed, and make efforts to change. We don't want our ongoing parenting to continue to make the same mistakes.
3. Ask for forgiveness (if necessary): Show your child true brokenness for sin. If you were legalistic, overly harsh, or critical in their younger days, go to them. Admit you were wrong to do that and sincerely ask them for their forgiveness. This is what God wants, and it can go a long way to opening new, deeper lines of communication.
3. Testify about Christ: Christ is a part of your life. Talk him up. Not in a cheesy or forced way - they will see right through that. But at the same time, don't feel that you have to hold back. Your child may have rejected Christ, but you haven't. And you have every liberty to proclaim the goodness of the Lord.
So be open about it. Talk about the things the Lord is doing in your life. Talk about the interesting people and programs at church. Let them know how helpful the church's leadership is. Offer the wisdom of Scripture where appropriate.
You don't have to preach. All you need to do is be a witness. You can talk about how great Christ is, just as you'd chat up a good game or vacation. Each time you do, you set before your child a little gospel invitation.
4. Discuss their life's choices: You are still the parent. You still parent the child, no matter how old they are. And parents talk with their kids when they make bad choices.
You may not nag or harp on them. You cannot command, scold, or rebuke them like you did when they were little. But you can have a mature, grown up conversation with them. As a matter of fact, your child expects you to discuss these things with them. That's because it's your job.
5. Let it go: "Once you’ve lovingly shared your opinion on the situation, there really is nothing else to say. Your child is an adult now and free to make his or her own decisions, even if you don’t agree."^ In sum, it's time to let the Holy Spirit take over. He is the one who brings conviction (Jn. 16:8).
6. Love them; enjoy them; bless them, praise them, have fun with them: In other words, keep that relationship alive and reflecting the fatherly kindness and lavish interest of God. The gospel is the good news of life and acceptance with God. Let your child know know something of this by the way you interact with them.
To be sure, there is no magical wand or unique parenting trick that will ensure your child embraces Christ. But you can still use your covenantal position to point your child to God and His grace.
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"The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe." Proverbs 29:25
What haunts you? What constantly lurks in your mind? What is it that frightens you into stopping dead in your tracks or pushes you into hiding?
Ghouls and goblins are all the rage this time of year, but Hollywood's most spine-chilling horror scenes pale in comparison to the everyday opinions and approval of ordinary men. It's more terrifying than demons and more fiendish than devils.
Criticism, rejection, the need for respect--these things can cripple us. We may not hide under the covers or shake uncontrollably in the fetal position , but we do become paralyzed in other ways. It can paralyze our speech or make us indecisive. The desire for approval can force us to hide behind certain patterns of behavior that are unbecoming or irrational.
Each of these examples is an example of someone who is ensnared. Their ego is enslaved to the approval of others. What's more, their lives are caught in a grinding mess of keeping this inflated image.
But the cross of Christ brings redemption. When we crucify our ego and turn to Christ we find great freedom and safety.
The gospel affords us a ton of relief; it provides us with the greatest form of security: God accepts us, sinners though we are.
Our identity is not tied to what my neighbor thinks, but now it is tied up in my union with Christ. Here is my solace: God thinks of me as His child! I am at peace because my life is hidden with Christ in God.
As our minds are cased upon God, we can be bold to live and speak as we ought. There is confidence and self assurance because we know that God's approval is the only thing of real worth. Man's approval is fleeting and vain.
Those who are in Christ do not need to be constantly looking over their shoulder or worrying what is in the minds of others. They are freed from these hauntings because they are ever looking up to God, to please Him.
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