Are You Avoiding Your Cross? You May Be Avoiding Your Joy, Too.

Wooden-Cross-weathered

Are you shirking part of your work? I think most of us know when we are doing this. As enigmatic as finding God’s will often seems, we seem to know fairly quickly if there is something we are neglecting to do. God has placed us where we are at this moment in time for a reason–to work in co-operation with Him in accomplishing His work here on earth before His second coming. Being faithful in the daily, ordinary tasks that contribute to the greater work can feel like slogging through mud sometimes. But it’s the only way to get any real work done.

tired gopher

And it’s the only way to feel joyful. Our joy is to be walking beside Christ our Shepherd, sharing in His joy as day by day the workings of His plan unfold before us. Turning away from our work is turning away from the comfort of drawing near to Him. We become like sheep who have wandered into the cold shadows of the brush nearby, rather than walking in the warmth of His side. Jesus, Himself acknowledged this in John 4:

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

During Lent we remember the lowliness of Christ and the work He did to accomplish our salvation. It’s a good time to ask ourselves what we are doing that we shouldn’t or what we aren’t doing that we should. For me, among many things, I am not walking and praying as I should. What is it for you? Ask for the strength to be obedient and sidle up next to the Savior and do it. He will be there with all the warmth and strength of His presence.

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:22-24

Artist unknown

Artist unknown

EBH

I Commit to Pray

Have you ever wondered how to pray for fellow persecuted believers?  The Voice of the Martyrs ministry offers an online prayer newsfeed for believers around the world.  This is a wonderful resource for keeping up-to-date on current events.  When a believer submits a public prayer request to VOM, VOM posts the prayer request on this website and sends an announcement out over email.  Click on icommittopray.com and sign up for daily prayer requests and praise reports emailed straight to you.  You can also type and post your prayer on the website.  Come join the VOM ministry in supporting God’s children everywhere through prayer.

Pray for Syrian Family and Ministry:  A Syrian child eagerly reads one of the children’s Bible stories received during a distribution to refugees.

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Picture and caption from:  https://www.icommittopray.com/request/182/christians%2Dfrom%2Dsyria/

Hannah Reis

Calling Parents Back to Their God-given Joy and Responsibility

family driven faith
Family Driven Faith: Doing What it Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God. Voddie Baucham Jr. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007.
This is one of those books that comes along every so often and causes quite a stir throughout the church, not only by its content but also by its implications. To some it sounds so radical, so out of the box, even shocking. In the final analysis though, it is very biblical. The shock value and the wake up call this book represents only goes to show how far we may have moved from a simple and precious biblical standard.
So what’s so shocking? Parents are called by God to be the primary disciplers of their children. Now that may not sound so unusual at first glance, but when you begin understanding the ramifications of such a calling, it forces Christian parents to re-evaluate how they parent and churches to re-evaluate how they minister. Now the wide-eyed faces appear!
Voddie Baucham, through personal experience and application of key biblical texts, outlines in this book how taking on the role of primary discipler for his children transformed his life, started the making of a new church model, and calls on all Christian parents and churches to seriously consider how the Bible prescribes raising our children.
In terms of strengths, this reader thoroughly appreciates Baucham’s contribution and would highlight at least three. First, Baucham encourages parents to not only embrace the Bible’s call to be the primary discipler of their children but he provides anecdotal illustrations to enable parents to catch the vision and begin the journey. Second, Baucham stresses how the church has, even with good intentions, structured itself to allow parents to set aside their role and rely solely on the church. This is not God’s will for the home. As parents teach and discipline their children, the church is meant to reinforce and support. Third, since this reviewer was only familiar with the content apart from reading, Baucham’s approach was far more inviting, charitable, and balanced than previously suspected. Granted, if one disagrees with Baucham’s conclusions, he will be tasked heavily to prove his own point because it is clear that Baucham has carefully thought through any objections. However, the tone is not dogmatic but rather graciously challenging.
No doubt the impact of this book surfaces when you finish reading. Parents will need to think through with much prayer and confidence in Scripture how to discipline, how to educate, and how to disciple their children. This may call for a radical change in priority, scheduling, and perspective. Churches, particularly leadership, will need to think through prayerfully and biblically how it is structured so that corporately and within each ministry the church is supporting and encouraging families. Some adjustments may be minor – some may be massive!
In terms of weakness, there is only one that stands out. Baucham’s resulting metaphor for the church is that it is to be a “family of families.” While that rightly emphasizes some glaring corrections the church needs to make, it doesn’t fully satisfy the NT presentation. It seems that the NT church is rather a brand new family, one composed of families for sure, but one also composed of singles, believing children without believing parents, and believing spouses married to unbelievers. No doubt Baucham and his church has a strategic way to incorporate these into the church, but the metaphor indicates these believers are somehow not “completely” in the church because they are not members of a believing family within the larger believing family of the church. However, to be entirely fair, Baucham acknowledges in his preface that this metaphor was intended to be a statement on the structure of the church, not the nature (p.7). So in essence, this weakness vanishes with this clarification. In the same way, however, the church model, family-integrated church, may unintentionally place an unnecessary burden upon those members who do not fit because they do not come to church as part of a complete believing family unit. The fully family-integrated model could cause frustration for singles, single parents, divorcees, and children who are the only believer in the home. That’s not to say these hurdles cannot be overcome through intentional design by the family-integrated church. It is only to say not every believer belongs to a believing family unit. So the question becomes how do these genuine believers, genuine members of Christ’s body, fit and feel welcomed into the family-integrated church model. How do you meet them at the “front door” without them turning away from first impressions? Is there some elbow room for these considerations in the FI model? Have these considerations already been acknowledged and alleviated in the FI model?
That being said, the model should not discourage parents and churches from fully examining this book’s helpful, biblical corrections and encouragements. Having grown up in the traditional model of church ministry and having in recent years discovered the joys and trials of educating, biblically disciplining, and intentionally discipling my own children, this one is a must read for every parent and church leader.
Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Cyber Book Club–Week 4: Mentors and First Love

Karl Barth. Swiss theologian.

Karl Barth. Swiss theologian.

We are in chapter four now. Dietrich is back from his trip to Rome where he caught a glimpse of the church universal–a topic he would explore in his doctoral dissertation. When back in Germany, Dietrich pursues his education and meets Karl Barth (pictured above), perhaps one of the most important theologians of the “last five centuries”. (pg. 59) Karl Barth rocked the German theological intelligentsia with an amazing thought:

“[he] asserted the idea, particularly controversial in German theological circles, that God actually exists, and that all theology and biblical scholarship must be undergirded by this basic assumption, and that’s that… Barth would be kicked out of Germany in 1934, and he would become the principal author of the Barmen Declaration, in which the Confessing Church trumpeted its rejection of the Nazis’ attempts to bring their philosophy into the German church.”(pg. 59)

Is is just me or is it almost humorous that something so simple could be so earth-shaking to people whose whole work is to study the Scriptures?

confused-monkey

In chapter 4 we also learn of Dietrich’s first love and deep friendship with Elizabeth Zinn.

But you have to read the chapter to find out how that turned out!

Some questions to consider:

What education have you received and how has it prepared you do the work God has for you to do?

Are there more preparations you need to make to serve others effectively?

Are you willing to say God exists even if those in authority over you don’t believe it?

Happy reading and discussing!

"Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2006-0130, Berlin, Humboldt Universität" by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2006-0130 / Hagemann, Otto / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-2006-

Berlin University. “Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2006-0130, Berlin, Humboldt Universität” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2006-0130 / Hagemann, Otto / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-2006-

Lent Begins: Remembering the Lowliness of Christ

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The recent mass murder of 21 Coptic Christians is a sobering reminder that we follow a Savior who is not only triumphant but one who suffered as well. Christ told us Himself that the world would hate us because it hated Him.

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

These horrible attacks have fallen just ahead of the beginning of the Lenten season. Being raised Anabaptist, I knew very little about the church calendar, but I am beginning to appreciate the way it divides up our year and facilitates the remembrance of the immeasurable goodness of God to us! Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday. It is a time to consider the lowliness of Christ and the cost of discipleship, and to renew our appreciation for what His suffering achieved for us. Below is a link to a beautiful explanation of Lent. Please consider how you might incorporate this season into your devotional life. Let this time encourage us to not be surprised when persecutions come and to remain joyful in the knowledge that one day all will be made right.

For a fantastic explanation of Lent click here.

Annibale_Carracci_-_Christ_Wearing_the_Crown_of_Thorns,_Supported_by_Angels_-_WGA04427

Luke 9:22-26. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” [23] And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  [24] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  [25] For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  [26] For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

EBH