“Mentoring is so American,” a friend from another country told me. We were talking about older women mentoring younger women, and she had a different take on it than most people around me. “Where I’m from, people would never do it. They just take part in the life of the church and try to be faithful in their personal lives.” What she meant was that the early 21st century American version of mentoring—more of a Evangelical, programmatic Titus 2 system—was something unique to this culture. And she is probably right: the one-on-one coffee dates, note taking, and arranged, lay shepherding isn’t exactly something that has a timeless or universal feel. Not that this “American” version of mentoring is wrong, it’s just a cultural expression of Protestant America trying to help the older women teach the younger women. Continue reading
Some wise words of scriptural wisdom from Fulgentius of Ruspe (c.467-527):
“In all good works, be careful lest you be stirred by desire for human praise. You ought to be praised in your good works, but insofar as you do them, you ought not to expect human praises. The human tongue may praise you, but desire praise from God alone. And thus it may come about that while you do not seek human praise, God may be praised in your deeds. Recall how much the Lord forbids us to do our righteous works to garner human praise, saying, ‘Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.’ Continue reading
Growth in grace is evidenced by a more habitual vigilance against besetting sins and temptations, and by greater self-denial in regard to personal indulgence.
A growing conscientiousness in regard to what may be called minor Christian duties is also a good sign. (The counterfeit of this is an over-scrupulous conscience, which sometimes haggles at the most innocent gratifications, and has led some to hesitate about taking their daily food.)
Increasing spiritual-mindedness is a sure evidence of progress in piety; and this will always be accompanied by increasing deadness to the world. Continue reading
“Sometimes it is not easy to see blessings, and yet when we think more deeply we know that there are so many that it is difficult to single them out. We take them so much for granted, not always because we are ungrateful, but because the blessings we lack fill our thoughts and discomfit our minds, so that we are unable to think of anything else and our whole outlook becomes distempered and discontented.
If you see the grace of God working in your life, and if you recognize the material blessing that have come your way as a consequence, do not forget to thank Him. It is sad when there is nothing for which we feel grateful to God, but it is serious when there is something and we fail to show gratitude, and it is tragic when we are so busy asking for more that we forget to thank Him for what we have received…
The primary reason God blesses us at all is that He may enjoy our thanksgiving and praise. Continue reading
Last month my parents were visiting us when the police called them, from their home phone. There had been a fire at their house; their youngest son, still living at home, his friend, and my mother’s father had all been hospitalized. My brother had been badly burned on his hand and foot rescuing my grandfather and trying to put out the fire. When the police called, he was on his way by ambulance to a burn unit in a larger city; surgeons would operate on him as soon as possible.
That sort of news, and its implications, is difficult to process out of the blue. It’s over the past few weeks that we’ve been able to see the situation more clearly. As we look back, some things stand out clearly—the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
Many evangelicals today claim “Christian liberty” in a way that can mean anything from Enlightenment ideals of individual rights and freedoms to the post-modern ideal of pluralistic relativism. Sadly, this means that “Christian liberty” all too easily becomes a buzz-word for living how I please, according to the way I interpret or apply Scripture–if there is even an effort to attempt at scriptural justification. This is radically different from the “Christian liberty” and “liberty of conscience” expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith in its summary of historic, biblical Christianity.
The first part of chapter 20 of this Confession directs the believer to understand that Christian liberty is “the liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel.” Christian liberty consists of freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, and the curse of the moral law. We receive this liberty because of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement. But there is much more to the gracious reality of Christian liberty through salvation in Christ: it is being delivered from this present evil world, from bondage to Satan and the rule of sin in our lives. Christ sets us free. In and through Christ we are also freed from the evil of afflictions (our afflictions will now work together for our good!), from the sting of death, from the victory of the grave, and from eternity in hell. Our vast and precious Christian liberty, as purchased by Christ for us, is an impelling motive to worship, and to holy thankfulness! Continue reading
Last week I reviewed a book on hospitality for someone. It was good, but like most books on hospitality, it seemed to be directed at women. That’s not all bad; we need help! But Scripture’s command to practice hospitality is not merely to women. In fact, when we look at Scripture, it is almost always the men – the husbands – who are directing the hospitality. This is true from Abraham (Gen. 18:6-7) to Manoah (Judges 13:15) to Boaz (Ruth 2:14) to Gaius (Rom. 16:23), with a few notable exceptions, such as Abigail’s husband, the harsh and unkind Nabal (1 Sam. 25:3). Women like Lydia (Acts 16:15) stand out as examples of women leading their families in this area.
And yet today in the church, we treat hospitality as though it’s largely the woman’s job–unless the man happens to love cooking. Perhaps part of this is because, unlike thousands of years ago, men today work outside the home; very few guys are on hand to slaughter fattened calves hours before a dinner party. But perhaps another part of it is be an unhealthy mix of unthinking abdication on the man’s part, and unthinking dominance on the woman’s.
Regardless of a husband’s working hours, cooking abilities, or social preferences, there are things that husbands can do to lead in showing hospitality. Continue reading
Over at Reformation21, Carl Trueman provides an initial assessment of the testimony of Elizabeth Smart, who argues that abstinence teaching made her awful ordeal even worse. Trueman astutely notes the troubling implications of this, both as an argument in the public square and reflective of ongoing cultural shift/decline in America. Of course, the pastoral angle is also crucial. Smart was reared with a Mormon abstinence teaching which was devoid of a Christian doctrine of sin and grace: this misses a coherent delineation between personal pursuit of sin, and abuse suffered unwillingly at the hands of others. Understanding these doctrines and delineations is desperately needed in the face of not only personal sin, but also when we are sinned against.
One helpful response to rape comes to us from church history. In the fourth century, Augustine wrote his famed City of God, shepherding Christians through the collapse of the western Roman Empire and answering pagan critics of Christianity. As a pastor, Augustine addressed the realities Christians faced in his generation: physical violence and emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of invading barbarians. Continue reading