Visions from the Vincents

April 23, 2008

What a 400-year-old Pastor Knows about Children!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joshua @ 1:14 pm
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One of my duties at FBCC is thinking through how to better disciple children.  I recently found a sermon series by Arthur Hilderson from Psalms 51:7 titled “Dealing with Sin in our Children” delivered May 22, May 29, and June 12, 1627.  While I am of the Baptist persuasion and may not agree with all that is in this sermon series, I found much of it helpful.  And, though it was written almost four hundred years ago, the material is amazingly relevant–our emerging friends can appreciate that!  I found the “Means” of dealing with sin in our children particularly helpful and challenging.  Hilderson says, “If we desire to save our children and heal their natures, we must be careful to maintain that authority and preeminence that God has given us over them.”  From this, he offers two telling reasons why children lack reverence for their parents.

Parents Must Fear God
The first is that their parents do not honor and fear God.  Therefore, he says, the children do not fear their parents.  In other words, healthy families are a gift of God to his people.  A fear of God is the ground for children respecting their parents.  Have you ever considered that the reason your children lack respect for you is because they do not see you respect God?  This surely is not always the case, but I think that it is a pervasive problem that you have been exposed to directly or indirectly.  Why would a child respect a parent who is rebellious towards God?  Rebellion breeds rebellion.

Parents Must Discipline Early
A second reason that children don’t respect their parents is “because they neglected to keep their children in awe when they were young.”  One of the main duties of a parent is to discipline their children, to teach them the difference between right and wrong from an early age.  This is a difficult tight rope to walk with neglect one side and abuse on the other; discipline is an ongoing learning process for the parent.  I am sure thousands of books have been written on child rearing with almost as many varying opinions on raising children.  Add to that, the unique personality of each child, and you have quite the trial on your hands.  Many of you have probably discovered that the successful methods of raising one child may not be so effective on another.  Subtract a father or mother from the every day family dynamic of that home and the problems are multiplied further.  I have a couple quick thoughts that I have found helpful.  For most, perhaps all of these, I am tapping into the deep wisdom of godly men and women that have walked before me.

Four Suggestions on Discipline
1. Take joy in your child. Your child needs to know that you have deep affections for them, and that you are grateful that God has blessed you with such a treasure.  Sometimes this can be really difficult.  Children disobey and make foolish decisions.  As Hilderson says, we must discipline and teach them about God, but we cannot normally let our children think that our joy in them is robbed because they have disobeyed us and thus sinned against God.  In other words, we image God in they way that we love our children.  We shouldn’t teach them that we will withhold our joy and love from them like blackmail if they don’t do what we want when we want.  We should discipline them even with the rod if necessary, but always reassuring the child that we are grateful for them.
2. Let children be children. This too can be difficult at times.  When is Benjamin jumping in the pool being disobedient and when is it just being a little boy?  We have to be careful not to let our emotions predominate in these situations.  The tendency for me is to let fear jade the distinction between Benjamin being a boy and Benjamin being disobedient and disciplining too quickly.  So, I try to approach the situation objectively.  The main thing that Cari and I look for at this point (Benjamin is almost 2 yrs old) is direct disobedience.  If we see clear defiance of authority, then we spank.
3. Don’t neglect your children–spank them. You have been given the clear charge by God to discipline your children.  Let joy and love reign in how you discipline your children, but be careful not to neglect spanking your children.  It is best for your children to heed your words without spanking.  In fact, you may be that one parent in a million that other parents hate because your child almost always simply obeys your words.  I have known kids like this.  I think it’s great, but even those children occasionally need a good spanking too.  Neglecting to spank your child is equivalent to neglect, which is abuse.
4. Don’t neglect your children–deal with their hearts. The most important discipline that needs to be done is that which is most often ignored.  Many parents are too tired or lazy to get up off of the couch and deal with their children’s hearts.  I know what it is like to be tired at the end of the day, when you would rather spank your child and get it over with than to address the heart issues that caused the bad behavior.  Ultimately, disobedience stems from a misunderstanding of the implications of the gospel.  The gospel claims that Jesus is King and that all must submit themselves to his authority.  For children, the main way this manifests itself is in their submission to the authority of their parents.  Children are commanded to obey their parents (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20).  Neglecting this will result in even more severe consequences than not spanking.

Conclusion
I think the way that God has developed the family is beautiful.  Parents are constantly charged to help their children fight sin.  In doing so, they are reminded of their own sin before God and should be moved to repent.  Rightly ordered, a family unit can be a great source of encouragement in the gospel. I pray that our church will be full of healthy fruitful families.

April 22, 2008

T4G Afterglow

Filed under: Pastor — Joshua @ 1:55 pm
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Much could be said about TG4. I am still coming down off of the mountain. If I had one word to describe it, it would be refreshing. If I had a another it would be soul-satisfying. Obviously one word doesn’t capture it. It truly is a joyful thing to sit and listen to competent men open up God’s word and proclaim. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling that the strong words of this conference were a timely ointment. Some of the things that stick out include:

“Race like unicorns doesn’t exist. To assume race is to rely on completely unbiblical assumptions.”–Thabiti

He went on to say that race posits that thire is an essential biological difference between various races. Instead, Thabiti affirms the use of the term “ethnicity” because it is a more fluid idea that includes, language, citizenship, etc. and is not rooted in biology. His main contention is that the Bible claims that we all go back to Adam. The implications are that we all share Adam’s sin nature (original sin) and Christ died for the son’s of Adam (substitutionary atonement). So, to buy into the ideological assumptions underpinning the term “race” is to deny the essence of the gospel. I have never heard this, but found it humbling, freeing, and exciting. The consequence is that the church is a mixture of people from various ethnicities that in essence become a new ethnicity in Christ. We are no longer defined as a racially distinct people gathered together to worship one God but we are all redeemed son’s of God who join to form an ethnicity that is grounded in Christ, and characterized by being a member of his Kingdom.

“Doctrine is for delight.”–Lig

I have to give props to Mississippi’s finest. Ligon Duncan showed that if you kill doctrine you kill joy. Talk about giving doctrine a face lift. I know many grown at thoughts of doctrinal systems. But, he assaulted such notions from God’s word clearly showing the significance of doctrine to the people of God (John 17:13, 28:18-20, 1 Tim 1:3-5, 1 Tim 6:2-4, Titus1:1).

“Try to make the gospel kinder and you will lose it” and “We might be tacking fruit on trees.”–Mark Dever

Much more could be said of this talk. Few men have influenced and invested in me so much, but I think his points capture the essence of his full on assault against the heavy hitters compromising the gospel today, which is an excellent example of charging others not to teach a false gospel. He lists 5 attempts to “improve” the gospel. 1. Make the gospel public-the gospel is not aimed chiefly at changing societal structures. 2. Make the gospel larger-the implications of the gospel aren’t part of the gospel. 3. Make the gospel relevant. 4. Make the gospel personal-does the word normally bring me into fellowship in the local church? 5. Make the gospel utilitarian-don’t try to justify God before unbelievers.

“Hard preaching makes soft hearts.” John M

My prayer for you is that your life and ministry would have a radical flavor, a saltiness, and brightness about your life.” “Jesus is the ticket. When the show starts your throw away your ticket.” “All will suffer for the gospel. So, don’t feel as thought something strange is happening to you when you suffer.”–John P

C.J. challenged us with Create a culture of gratefulness in church.” “Have a joy in ministry characterized by a grateful heart as evidenced by Paul.”

In light of this I am profoundly grateful to my church for allowing me to go to this conference. I pray it produces much fruit.

April 7, 2008

The Unity of the Bible: Bound with the Blood of the Lamb

Filed under: Bible — Joshua @ 9:05 pm

I think we would all agree that the Bible is chock full of diversity.  Some examples come to mind immediately.
1.    The Bible is divided into two different testaments (the Old and the New).
2.    The Bible is written in different languages.  The Old is written in Hebrew and Aramaic, while the New is written in Koine Greek.
3.    40 different authors contributed to the Bible.
4.    A number of different genres are used in the composition of the Bible—narrative, poetry, apocalyptic literature, wisdom literature, letter, prophecy, etc.
Some might ask—and believe me many do—“How can there be any sense of unity to the Bible with so much diversity?”  The Bible offers at least two truths that help address this question.

Scripture’s Authorship is not Merely Mortal
As is with so much of Christianity, we hold to a worldview that the world scoffs at—that God has spoken to man.  The world says that Scripture is merely a work of men.  The world’s wisdom doesn’t have an advantage over the Christian though.  Actually, the world scoffs at what it does not know—man has sinned against his good, creator God and needs a Savior.  The world lacks ears to hear the Word of God as a message delivered to men through men.  Two years ago, my wife could not hear me.  She began to go deaf.  When we went to the doctor, he informed us that she had a disease that was affecting the stapes bone in her middle ear that would eventually leave her completely deaf.  This doctor took this bone out of her ear, and replaced it with a prosthesis stapes made of titanium.  Now, she can hear things even I can’t hear and occasionally has to ask me to quiet down.  When she could not hear, her problem wasn’t that she didn’t believe I could speak.  Her problem was that she couldn’t hear my voice.  Sin, like the disease in my wife’s ear, leaves us all in need of an ear surgery so that we can hear God speak.  God gives the Christian ears to hear at conversion.  Converted people look to the Bible and hear it to be the voice of God.  God’s sheep both hear and recognize His voice.  Scripture itself attests to the fact that it was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Weeks ago, Brian preached on the Authority of the Word of God.  The Bible’s authority comes from its divine author.  In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul tells us “all of Scripture is breathed out by God.”  For this reason, the Bible’s self-attestation as the Word of God is the ultimate argument for trusting it as carrying God’s authority.  Because, if it is the Word of God—and it is—then there can be no greater authority to appeal to.  So, the person that rejects to Word of God as being Authoritative suffers a greater problem—they are dead in their sins, and unable to hear and believe and trust God at His word.

Scripture’s Main Point is not Merely Mortal
God has spoken!  He has spoken over millennia past through choice human authors.  But, what has God said?  What is the main point of what He has said to us?  Just as the Bible is where God speaks through man, Jesus Christ is where God speaks through man.  Jesus was not merely mortal.  Jesus is fully God and fully man.  Surely we could all agree that Jesus is the point of the New Testament, but perhaps there are some naysayers who would be reluctant to support the statement that Jesus is the point of the Old Testament as well.  Where do I get this?  I get this from Jesus.  After God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus joined two men traveling to Emmaus—who didn’t know they were walking with Jesus.  They lamented the death of Jesus referring to him as a prophet in Lk 24:19.  Jesus responds saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses an all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).  Two things are apparent from this text.  First, Jesus tells us that all of the Old Testament clearly points to himself.  Second, the death of Jesus on the cross was a necessary implication of the teaching of the Old Testament.  Thus, Jesus claims that He is the point of the Bible, and that his life, death, resurrection, and ascension were central to his purpose.  Jesus is indeed the main point of the Bible.

Don’t Live a Life that is Merely Mortal
As Christians, we are actually given the Spirit of God so that we are no longer merely mortal.  Interestingly, the Spirit’s purpose is to point us to Christ.  John 15:26 says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds form the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  The same spirit that led the prophets and apostles now indwells Christians.  Just as the Spirit pointed them to Christ, He now points us to Christ.  This leads us to an important thought.  There is actually a wrong way to read the Bible.  To read the Bible as a flat set of ethical principles to be followed to make one right with God is a pagan reading of a divinely inspired text.  This type of reading would be tantamount to seeking to please God by doing him a favor.  Maybe this person wouldn’t say this out loud, but his actions communicate the message, “Hey God.  You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.”  God has spoken to us to tell us that the point of Scripture, and all of history for that matter is to reveal the Excellencies of Christ.  This is central to rightly understanding everything in life.  But, how does this play out?  If you are reading your Bible, then it means that to understand how any Scripture applies to you, you must first understand how it applies to Christ.  A good test question is why don’t we still practice animal sacrifices as the people of God.  The answer is that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were actually signs or arrows pointing to a greater sacrifice that was to come.  John 1:29 tells us that Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb who has come into the world to be sacrificed for our sins.  Hebrews tells us that he was offered up once for all.  So, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice that meets the need of his people to be saved from condemnation.  Now, the Christian is called to offer up her body as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1).  Even in our offering up of ourselves, we actually “share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet 4:13).  The Christian can only understand truly ethical behavior in Christ.  Outside of Christ there is no ethical behavior.  All good deeds are as filthy rags outside of the atoning work of Christ. This is the point of the Spirit and God’s authoritative word, the Bible—to point to Christ.  As a Christian, this means that I need to live all of life in light of Jesus.  I am called to live an intentionally Christ-centered life.  Praise God that I am not left alone to my own devices.  God has given me his Spirit to help me look to and trust in Christ, the one man who could live up to the ethical standards set by God.  Not only this.  He has empowered me to please him, giving me a desire and love for his commandments.  There is unity to the Bible, just as there is unity to all of life.  As a Christian, all of my life—like the Bible I read—is bound by the blood of the Lamb.

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