Geoffrey Kirkland – Instruction and Parenting

Parents all understand Paul’s command to “bring the children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6.4). But sometimes we grow weary in teaching the same old truths on many occasions again and again. Solomon could relate. He said “Hear my son your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Prov 1:8). All through the Book of Proverbs, we receive many examples of Solomon pleading with his son to hear, listen to, heed, pay attention to, and receive His instruction. For instance, “my son, do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments” (Prov 3:1). This is a vital and unending part of parenting. As the children grow, we as parents must be deliberate in our teaching and instructing of their hearts. This not only takes place in the discipline room when they’re very small (with simple points of instruction) but as the child gets older, the physical spanking will decrease and the verbal instruction and biblical reasoning with the child will increase. When the child is so young that he cannot articulate or reason with you as the parent, discipline with the rod is the primary means of discipline when he has sinned. But as the child grows, verbal instruction, reasoning from the Scriptures, and helping the child see the desires that rule his heart that cause him to then choose to act, speak, or respond a certain way will then take priority in shepherding them toward Christ.

To continue reading Geoffrey Kirkland’s article, click here.

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Nick Batzig – Don’t Waste Your Commute

We live in what has to be the most frenetic society in all of human history. It seems as though things are just getting faster and faster, and the pressure to fill our schedules with non-essential activities is becoming more and more demanding. The impact of such a dynamic is not easy to measure; but, one of the things that I have noticed in my own life is that it is easy for our devotional life and family worship to fall by the wayside if we are not guarded and purposeful about it.

God has entrusted us with a stewardship to shepherd the children He has given us. They belong to Him. He has loaned them to us and made us stewards of their souls. What we do with regard to bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord will have an impact on them for the rest of their lives and for all of eternity. In as much as this stewardship is of paramount importance, it is also one of the responsibilities that we most quickly abnegate when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the rat race of our society. Are there tangible things that we can do to safeguard against the temptation to neglect such an important aspect of our lives? I believe that there are quite a number of practical steps that we can take in order to carry out the pursuit of feeding our own souls and bringing our shepherding our children, even in the midst of such a frenetic society.

To continue reading Nick Batzig’s article, click here.

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Brian Dembowczyk – 8 Tips to Help You Disciple Your Kids

My oldest son, Joshua, took up soccer this past spring and will continue this fall. My wife and I have really enjoyed watching him play, and even as a beginner at the age of 12, he seems like he has the temperament, body frame, and ability to develop the necessary skills to be a solid player. I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses this season which begins in a few weeks. But as much as I am enjoying Joshua playing soccer, there is something that frustrates me about it as well.

I can’t help him.

To continue reading Brian Dembowczyk’s article, click here.

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Josh Buice – Parenting is Discipleship

The work of parenting is tough. The labor is long and the discouragement is constant, but the joys of parenting outweigh all of it. I’m certain that all parents experience joys in their relationship with their children, but as a Christian parent we approach the work of parenting through a different lens. Being a parent is far more than building relationships with our children. It is the duty of Christian parents to go beyond building your child’s athletic resume or teaching your child a trade. We have a much larger task and responsibility. Parenting is the work of discipleship.

Parenting is the Task of Making Disciples

Jesus’ Great Commission to His followers involved going and making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Before going to the nations, they were to begin that work in Jerusalem. We see them engaging unbelievers with the gospel at Pentecost in Acts 2. From there, they would then go beyond the borders of Jerusalem eventually spreading the gospel to the entire world.

Before we go beyond the borders of our own homes to share the gospel with neighbors, co-workers, extended family, friends, and even short term mission trips overseas—we must begin the work of making disciples in our own home with our own children. Making disciples is the commission, but how is that accomplished? It’s certainly more than getting decisions. It’s far more than having someone repeat a prayer. It’s much more involved than walking through a gospel tract one time and calling for a child to follow Christ by faith. Making a disciple is a hard task because it’s an impossible task.

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Zach Barnhart – 3 Essentials of Discipleship According to Herman Bavinck

zach_barnhart

You probably haven’t read much, if anything, by Herman Bavinck. I hadn’t either, but after hearing what impact he had on some ministers that I deeply respected, I decided to take the plunge and purchase his seminal masterpiece, Reformed Dogmatics, a four-volume, 3000-page collection that was translated into English only seven years ago. As I finish reading through the last of the four volumes, I now treasure Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics as an essential piece of my library. I have gleaned a wealth of learning from Bavinck and I know I’ll return to these again and again throughout my ministry. Even if you are familiar with Bavinck’s work, many are tempted to view him as only a systematician, doctrinal explanation without application. My aim is to not merely draw your attention to a man worthy of it, but also to show that we can learn much from Bavinck in terms of how we apply these critical teachings in our lives as we pursue a historically rooted discipleship.

THE PREFACE OF DISCIPLESHIP: GOD’S REVELATION

Our quest for discovering the depths of discipleship through Herman Bavinck’s eyes starts with a focus on God’s revelation. Oftentimes, especially in systematic treatments of theology, revelation is placed at the forefront, serving as a sort of apologetic. After all, if God can or does not reveal himself generally and specially, what argument is there for him? This point certainly should be emphasized, especially for the unbeliever. Yet, in our approach to thinking about God’s general and special revelation, we face the temptation of limiting its importance to only the unbeliever. We feel like revelation must be talked about only for the sake of those who need to be convinced of its reality, and it is often treated in such a way that Bible-believing Christians are exempted from the discussion. But “general revelation,” Bavinck observes, “has meaning not only for the pagan world but also in and for the Christian religion.”

The primary Greek word for disciple is mathetes, which means “a learner.” If we can reduce the concept of God’s revelation to knowing, we can reduce the concept of Christian discipleship to learning. Bavinck connects the task of discipleship with the function of revelation here:

“Now special revelation has recognized and valued general revelation, has even taken it over and, as it were, assimilated it. And this is also what the Christian does, as do the theologians. They position themselves in the Christian faith, in special revelation, and from there look out upon nature and history. And now they discover there as well the traces of the God whom they learned to know in Christ as their father.“

Discipleship starts with revelation, because it is in that moment that we are “equipped with the spectacles of Scripture” and thus “see God in everything and everything in God.” Revelation does not only help the Christian “feel at home in the world,” but also gives Christians “a firm foundation on which they can meet all non-Christians.” Revelation is critical to our foundation as disciples of Christ.

One last word from Bavinck on how discipleship finds its origins in revelation:

“The purpose of revelation is not Christ; Christ is the center and the means; the purpose is that God will again dwell in his creatures and reveal his glory in the cosmos…In a sense this, too, is an incarnation of God.”

While Christ is the ultimate instrument of revelation, the highest purpose of revelation itself is that God may be glorified by dwelling with his people. As we will see, once the revelation of God captivates the heart of the believer, not only can the journey of discipleship begin, but also the horizon of its purpose will come more plainly into view.

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Mathew Sims – 4 Essentials For Cultivating Disciples

SONY DSC For many years the Church has been conversing about what discipleship should look like. These conversations only buttress the truth that proper discipleship strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. Without proper discipleship, our faith is deformed. It turns into a circus, social club, dead “orthodoxy,” or worse. In my estimation, the church has overcomplicated matters. We must return to the ancient, tested, and biblical forms and enjoy liberty in the cultural expressions of these forms. Here are four essential forms for cultivating disciples.

1. Retell The Story

Storytelling has always been foundational to the Christian faith. In the Old Testament, God rescues Israel from Egypt in dramatic fashion. He could’ve entered Egypt day one and rescued His people in a variety of ways, but He didn’t. He chose to do it with plagues. He chose an angel of death. He chose to part the Red Sea. He chose the desert. Then after these chapters in His grand story of redemption, God gives His people a gracious law and as He gives it he keeps using phrases like “Do this because I redeemed you from slavery” or “When you teach your children, remind them of how I brought you out of Egypt.” Story was essential for the faith of His people. When they rejected God as their God, it was because they forgot where they came from.

In the New Testament, Jesus enters the promised land where His people are again under captivity. He comes preaching the kingdom—which includes freedom from slavery. But this freedom was not the kind people thought He would bring. He brought freedom from the body of sin. Freedom that can never be taken away. So Jesus lives, dies, rises, and ascends to heaven. Many years thereafter the primitive New Testament church was versed in the oral re-telling of the stories of Jesus’ life. Can you blame them? The majority to start were Jews who were used to re-telling stories as a way of life. We of course know that within a century we have what is now know as New Testament. But stories of Jesus were essential for maturing disciples within the covenant community. It should be no different in the church today—except now we have a sure foundation in the written Word. Do not neglect re-telling the story of our redemption in every square inch of life.

2. Church Gathered (Gospel Received)

Disciples must be made within the covenant community. The Church gathered is where God calls his people to hear His Word—sung, read, preached, eaten, and sent. It is where the one story intersects with people from every nation. This is the place where wounds are healed, friendships formed, and charity born. It is where God speaks. If these are missed than fundamentally Christian disciples cannot be cultivated. It happens in the church before the face of God and part of that speaking is Him sending out.

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Book Review – Discipleship

1433120 The theme of easy grace at times seems to permeate the pulpit and Christian books in recent memory with calls for a life of ease residing at the fingertips of those who can garner enough gumption and belief to obtain it. But is this approach of a life of ease with no hint or mention of what biblical discipleship and following Christ really speaking truth to this issue? Are we actually expected as believers to respond to Christ’s call with something more than a walk down the aisle and a prayer? In his classic treatise on the issue of the nature of discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer digs deep into what God says about this issue.

This is the fourth volume in the Fortress Press Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series and I have to submit it is my favorite volume thus far. Discipleship is hard-honest, honest in its treatment of discipleship, and foremost, the approach taken by Bonhoeffer is wonderfully biblical. He makes no secret of his disdain for what he labels as cheap grace or the belief in the “justification of sin but not of the sinner”. In fact, Bonhoeffer calls cheap grace “the moral enemy of the church in the very first sentence of this book and rightly so.

With that said, this is also not a book that is merely a tirade against cheap grace with no definition provided of what biblical grace and the believer’s response to such an unmerited gift looks like in practice. Bonhoeffer was a man who intimately knew what it meant to live a life of devotion to God in the face of tyranny and persecution. He knew what it meant to stand up for truth, knowing that death might ensue. He understood Christ’s words that persecution would come to those who followed Christ.

I appreciated Bonhoeffer’s elaboration on what the call to discipleship means in practice, in particular what the proper response is to Christ’s call to follow him. Bonhoeffer aptly notes, “Because Jesus is the Christ, he has authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus calls to discipleship, not as a teacher and a role model, but as the Christ, the Son of God.” Furthermore, this call to discipleship is one of grace, a costly grace on behalf of the one who calls and the one who follows. Bonhoeffer describes this call as “a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It is beyond enmity between law and gospel. Christ calls; the disciple follows. That is grace and commandment in one.” Jesus calls, we obey by following that command and being obedient to Scripture in our walk with him.

Of further note is Bonhoeffer’s discussion on the set-apart nature of those follow Christ. This is an important discussion given the people of God are the ecclesia, or those called out of those around them to be a people holy and set apart for God. This calling out of has a defined meaning and application in Scripture and Bonhoeffer does an excellent job of walking the reader through the Sermon on the Mount. Of great import is the following outstanding statement by Bonhoeffer:

“Jesus does not permit his listeners to simply walk away, making whatever they like of his discourse, extracting what seems to them to be useful in their lives, testing how this teaching compares to “reality”…Jesus knows only one possibility: simply go and obey. Do not interpret or apply, but do it and obey. That is the only way Jesus’ word is really heard.”

Thus the command to follow Jesus comes as part of the package the command to hear and obey. To be called out of as a disciple of Jesus requires that costly grace of hearing the word and obeying it.

Part of how we live this life of costly grace is within the bounds of a community of believers, the ecclesia, the called out ones. Bonhoeffer stresses the importance of being part of the body of Christ and the importance of community. Moreover, this visible community of believers is to be about doing something. Bonhoeffer notes that part of the physical nature of the community of believers is demonstrated through the preaching of the Word, baptism, the taking of the Lord’s Supper, and being “involved in all areas of the world” around us. This is the nature of what it means to be salt and light to the world.

Finally, it must be noted that Bonhoeffer also drives home the importance of being the ecclesia and the aspect of that reality as it is reflected in being holy as God is holy through the process of being sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, grace is not cheap because it demands a change of heart and mind. It is costly because this requires a bit of work. Bonhoeffer skillfully relays the balance that exists between law and obedience to God’s law and the work of grace found in the cross. He saliently notes, “Our goal is to do the good work which God demands. God’s law remains in effect and must be fulfilled. However, there is but one work which deserves that designation, namely, God’s work in Christ Jesus. We have been saved through God’s own work in Christ, rather than through our own works. Thus we never derive any glory from our own works, for we ourselves are God’s work. But this is why we have become a new creation in Christ: to attain good works in him” and I will add to the glory of God.

I cannot recommend this book enough. In a day and age when cheap grace has become so popular, the call to a life of discipleship and obedience is sorely needed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in this excellent book, calls the believer back to a life of surrender to the cross and a life lived in devotion to God’s commands to the glory of God.

This book is available for purchase from Fortress Press by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Fortress Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Dave Jenkins – Christ’s Ascension

This is sermon #103 in the Luke series. In this sermon on Luke 24:50-53, Dave Jenkins preaches on the meaning of Christ’s ascension, mission, and discipleship.

[audio:http://servantsofgrace.org/podpress_trac/web/6855/0/ChristsAscension.mp3]

Click here for the Servants of Grace website.

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Dr. Albert Mohler – Intellectual Discipleship — Following Christ with Our Minds

The biblical master narrative serves as a framework for the cognitive principles that allow the formation of an authentically Christian worldview. Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all, but it is not enough.

A robust and rich model of Christian thinking—the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview—requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the systematic wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth. Christianity is not a set of doctrines in the sense that a mechanic operates with a set of tools. Instead, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the Bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures.

A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals and frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God. This task of bringing every thought captive to Christ requires more than episodic Christian thinking and is to be understood as the task of the Church, and not merely the concern of individual believers. The recovery of the Christian mind and the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview will require the deepest theological reflection, the most consecrated application of scholarship, the most sensitive commitment to compassion, and the courage to face all questions without fear.

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Jim Daly – Ten Reasons Kids Leave the Church

As much fun as Trent, Troy, and I have together, whether it’s camping or just throwing the ball around, not a day goes by that I don’t give serious thought to how my wife, Jean, and I are leading them spiritually. In the grand scheme of things, we only a have a short window to help them build a solid biblical foundation before they launch out on their own.

If you’re a parent, I’m guessing you’re well aware of how challenging that can be. Even the statistics bear out the struggle we face. The exact percentages are up for debate, but we know that a significant number of kids walk out the church doors after high school graduation and never return.

Why?

Well, the specific reasons depend on which study you read, but most of them point out how adults fail to connect teenagers to God’s redemptive work in meaningful ways. A recent example of this comes from a website designed for workers in church leadership. The article’s author , Marc5Solas, lives in a college town. He interviewed a large number of twenty-somethings to get their take on why Christianity is no longer important to them and boiled down what he learned into ten reasons you might find interesting.

Take a look and see what you think.

10. The church is “relevant.”

Normally, “relevant” is a positive term. In this case, it labels the problem. We’ve couched our faith in modern trappings to the point that 2,000 years of history and rich tradition have been diminished. As the article suggests: “What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to. In our effort to be ‘like them,’ we’ve become less of who we actually are.”

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