Archive - February, 2016

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

Paul’s declaration in Acts 20:27, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are richly inspiring, yet deeply sobering words.  Why inspiring?  Why sobering?  Let’s take the latter first.

These are deeply sobering words because they imply that, due to what is contained in “the whole counsel of God,” there may be sources of temptation to shrink from declaring to others the very content of these words.  More specifically, to declare the whole counsel of God requires that we overcome both the fears of external resistance, and the deep discomfort of internal inclinations, that lead us to seek to avoid disapproval by others.  In a word, we see that faithfulness to the whole counsel of God is an issue, at bottom, of the fear of God vs. the fear of man.  Whose approval do we most long to receive?  Whose opinion do we most value?  Whose assessment weighs in heaviest in our own hearts and souls.  (BTW, “most” and “heaviest” are important terms in these questions since it is simply impossible to care not at all—nor should we—about the opinions or assessments of others.  So, the question is not whether we care about what others think, but whose opinion and assessment matters to us the very most!  Here is a test of faithfulness to and worship of the true God vs. idolatry in the very ways we assess what others think about us).

But, why should this be?  What is it about “the whole counsel of God” that would elicit such fears and deep discomforts?  The answer is obvious once one considers the content of “the whole counsel of God” in contrast with the values, commitments, and moral sensibilities of the culture in which we live.  That word of God in its fullness contains many teachings and truths that are at one and the same time, glorious, beautiful, humbling, strengthening, and awe- and hope-inspiring, to those who have the eyes of faith, and also deeply offensive, seemingly foolish, and fully at odds with the zeitgeist and wisdom of our culture as it divines what is good and right and fulfilling.  Paul is conveying this notion when he speaks of the word of the cross as foolishness to those perishing but to us who are saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18-25).  Again, he speaks of the gospel as emitting one aroma which to some is the fragrance of life, whereas to another it is the stench of death (2 Cor 2:14-17).

Children Desiring God Blog // Bruce Ware QuoteBecause we live in a culture where what is truly (as God knows these to be) right, good, and wise is considered wrong, bad, and foolish, while what is truly (as God knows these to be) wrong, bad, and foolish is considered right, good, and wise – due to this sinful and Satanic (recall he excels in deception above all else) inversion of truth, faithfulness to proclaim the actual content of the Word of God is to invite scorn, ridicule, and rejection from the cultured despisers—Schleiermacher surely was correct here—of biblical religion.  Hence, there will inevitably arise within our hearts, as with the heart of the Apostle Paul, a temptation, even a stubborn inclination, to “shrink from declaring” what that word actually says and teaches—a betrayal of the truth that Schleiermacher and a host of subsequent liberals have done right down to the Brian McClarens and Rob Bells of our day.  So we are faced with one of the ultimate and most central questions of our lives as Christians and particularly as Christian ministers – will we fear man and so shrink, or will we fear God and so not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God?  Choose this day whom you will serve.  We cannot not serve both the Word of God and the wisdom of men.

But Paul’s words, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are also deeply inspiring words, for they call to mind the story of a remarkably faithful while violently opposed life lived for the cause of Christ and his gospel.  Often when I read Paul’s description of the suffering he endured in his ministry of the gospel (see especially his record of affliction and opposition in 2 Cor 11:23-29) I call to mind also these words in Acts 20:27.  There is a connection between the two that should be obvious to all.  His was not the kind of affliction due to foolishness and sinfulness that Peter warns against (1 Pet 3:17b) but rather of the affliction that comes from the offense of the truth and doing what is right that Peter commends (1 Pet 3:13-17a).  It was his very not shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God that resulted in the massive opposition, suffering, hardship, and agony that Paul endured.  Yet, because he knew with all of his heart that the truths which he taught and for which he suffered were life-giving and hope-building, he could suffer even with joy—recall this theme in his letter to the Philippians which he wrote from prison.  Indeed, because of the inestimable glory of this truth, he could even consider the fullness of his own suffering as merely “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor 4:17) in contrast with the eternal weight of glory awaiting all who knew and embraced the wonders of the truths he faithfully taught from the whole counsel of God. Incredible. Almost unbelievable.  Yet, this indeed makes perfect sense because (but only because) Paul knew the words of truth he embraced as his own, the words of truth he proclaimed without compromise, the words of truth for which he suffered, were the very words of life.

Do you know the whole counsel of God as the very words of life?  Do you uphold and embrace every aspect of the whole counsel of God as God’s own word and words, and therefore as true and right and glorious and good?  Do you accept the inevitable opposition which comes with faithful proclamation of those words?  May God grant us hearts like the Apostle Paul’s, to proclaim with joy what may bring us opposition, knowing that, in the end, we await the words “well done” from the One who embraced and proclaimed the truth most faithfully, and who, as a result, suffered most fully.

Bruce A. Ware
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

2016 National ConferenceWe are excited to welcome Bruce Ware back for a third time as one of our keynote speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference. He will expound on these issues and help us answer these questions as he teaches on Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. We hope you will join us April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

When Life is Hard God is…  

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It has been a difficult week for my extended family. Hard news from doctors. Difficult decisions. Pain and suffering. Tears and heartbreak. But there is something more. Underneath the life-shaking events is something unshakeable, something that changes everything. Christina Fox explains it so beautifully:

When the storms of life wreak havoc on all you know and love, what theological truths anchor your soul? What doctrines do you turn to when the world around you seems to give way under your feet? What truths about God bring you the most comfort when life is uncertain and nothing makes any sense?

Though all of God’s word is essential for us to read, learn, memorize, and study, and though all of God’s word teaches us all that we need to know to weather the storms of life, there is one theological truth that stands out in times of trial and suffering. There is one doctrine that brings everything into perspective and provides comfort and rest for our weary souls.

The sovereignty of God.

…This truth calms our hearts because we know that there are no accidents or random circumstances. God ordains and orchestrates all things. And because God is our good, loving, and faithful Father, we can rest in his holy purposes for us. Even when we don’t understand what is happening, we can trust that God’s plan is good because he is good. He is making us holy and will use every circumstance to that end. As the Heidelberg Catechism says, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.”

(You can read the entire article here: “Theology That Comforts the Weary Soulwww.desiringGod.org)

Will our children have this anchor for the soul when the storms blow? Will they have a solid knowledge and grasp of God’s sovereignty in ALL of life? If you haven’t already done so, I would urge you to acquaint your children with this important theological truth and keep bringing it to mind throughout their lives—showing how it applies to the many and varied circumstances of their lives. Go deep into the providence of God. Don’t wait until the storms come—it’s hard to teach someone to sail for the first time with gale-force winds blowing!

One way you can prepare your children is by reading together God’s Providence by Sally Michael. Each of the 26 short chapters provides insights into the sovereignty of God, as well as follow-up discussion questions for the whole family.

A second way to prepare your children is to consider a more in-depth study for your church or family. My Purpose Will Stand: A Study for Children on the Providence of God is a 40-lesson curriculum. Here is a brief description of this study:

God is present and active in the world, orchestrating all things to serve His eternal purposes. All His purposes are good and right, and are accomplished with perfection. As the Sovereign Creator of the world (and everything in it!) God has the right, power, wisdom, and righteousness to rule the universe.

The goal of My Purpose Will Stand is to so reveal God and His glorious work of providence that through the Holy Spirit’s work in the teaching of His Word, students would respond to God in faith as they look for God’s providence in all things—meditating on His works, seeing the big picture of God’s work in the world, and seeing the hand and heart of Jesus in all circumstances of their lives.

(Image courtesy of antpkr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Seven Principles for More Effective Teaching

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Would you like to improve the teaching experience for both you and your students? Here is a resource I highly recommend: Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive  by Dr. Howard Hendricks.  It’s filled with practical, biblical, seasoned wisdom that is helpful for both new and experienced teachers alike. I also appreciate that it is relatively short—only 151 pages – so it’s easily “digestible” for busy teachers. Here is a very brief summary of the seven principles, or “laws” he describes:

(T) The Law of the Teacher— If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow…You cannot communicate out of a vacuum. You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t know it—truly know it—you can’t give it.

(E) The Law of Education—How people learn determines how you teach.

(A) The Law of Activity—Maximum learning is always the result of maximum involvement. That’s true, with one condition. The activity in which the learner is involved must be meaningful.

(C) The Law of CommunicationTo truly impart information requires the building of bridges.

All communication has three essential components: intellect, emotion, and volitionin other words, thought, feeling, and action.

If I know something thoroughly, feel it deeply, and am doing it consistently, I have great potential for being an excellent communicator.

(H) The Law of the Heart—Teaching that impacts is not head to head, but heart to heart.

To the Hebrews, heart embraced the totality of human personality—one’s intellect, one’s emotions, one’s will.

So the process of teaching is that of one total personality transformed by the supernatural grace of God, reaching out to transform other personalities by the same grace.

(E) The Law of Encouragement—Teaching tends to be more effective when the learner is properly motivated.

As a teacher—a motivator—you want to help people develop into self-starters. You want them to do what they do, not because you ask them or twist their arm, but because they themselves have chosen to do it.

One of the best ways to trigger this choice is to help the learner become aware of his need.

(R) The Law of Readiness—The teaching-learning process will be most effective when both student and teacher are adequately prepared. [For example, use the beginning of your class time to build interest toward the subject matter. Give your students an assignment: looking up texts, reviewing prior themes, etc.]

(copyright©1987, pages 17, 39, 60-61, 71, 85, 100, 103, and 115)

Again, these brief descriptions do not do justice to his main points and practical applications. I urge you to read the whole book. In fact, it is one of the books I have been reading in preparation for my seminar, Encouraging Active Minds in the Learning Process,” to be presented at our National Conference. I would love to have you join me there to further explore this important topic!

An Invitation to Parents (and Parents-to-Be)

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Here is a great question to ponder from Lou Priolo:

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish as a parent? What exactly is your objective?

Let that weigh on your mind and heart for a moment. Think of the variety of things that consume your time in your parenting efforts—meeting basic physical needs, attending church, education, sports activities, hobbies, music lessons, special family celebrations, and more. Are all these efforts serving a common objective?

Here is how Mr. Priolo answers his own question:

Since you are a Christian parent there is only one ultimate answer to this question—and that answer is found in the Bible. The supreme objective you should have for your children is the same objective the Apostle Paul had for his spiritual children—that they be conformed (gradually changed into) the image of Christ.

He then goes on to state three necessary ingredients to produce Christ-like maturity:

…the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and time.

(Teach Them Diligently: How to Use Scriptures in Child Training, copyright©2000, pages 1-2)

2016 National ConferenceIt seems so simple, doesn’t it? Yet every parent knows it is an awesome task and a weighty responsibility. And, for many parents, especially those who did not grow up in Christian homes, it can be even more daunting! In the past, I have recommended many helpful books on parenting, including the one quoted above. However, if there was just one event that I could recommend for parents this coming year, it would be our National Conference. You see, contrary to what you might think, it’s not just for church leaders and ministry volunteers. It is packed with biblical parenting help and encouragement. From a parenting perspective, I have found the pre-conference seminars by Pastor David and Sally Michael to be extremely beneficial. Just look at the seminar titles:

  • A Vision for God-Centered Worship in the Next Generation [i.e., your children]
  • A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation [your children]
  • A Vision for Encouraging Faith in the Next Generation [your children]

In my opinion, it’s not an overstatement to say that these 3 seminars present some of the best biblical parenting advice that I have found in any other single resource! These talks may literally transform your parenting and provide you with much needed encouragement. Furthermore, consider these seminars that distinctly apply to parenting:

  • The Parent-Church Connection
  • “Let the Children Come to Me” in Worship
  • Strategies for Engaging Children in the Worship Service
  • Teaching Youth to Study the Bible
  • Teaching Youth to Rejoice in God’s Good Design
  • Teaching Children and Youth to Stand Firm in a Hostile Culture
  • Picking Up the Digital Blitz: Recognizing and Countering the Technology Rush in Our Homes
  • Sins or Synapse? Are Teens Controlled by Their Brains
  • The Power of the Memorized Word in the Fight of Faith
  • Strengthening the Church-Home Partnership in the First Three Years
  • Communicating the Gospel Within the Whole Counsel of God
  • Encouraging God-Esteem in a Culture of Self-Esteem
  • Foundations for Family Discipleship
  • Intergenerational Teaching: Why and How?
  • From Genesis to Revelation: Disability and His Sure Promises of Help
  • Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths

Grandparents: Consider helping your children attend this conference by providing financial assistance and/or childcare.

Church members: Do you know of parents who would especially benefit from this conference? Pass this post on to them. If necessary, look for ways that you and others could provide resources to make it easier for them to attend.

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