Jason Helopoulos – Persistent Prayer to a Loving Father

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Persistent prayer proves hard for many Christians. We may labor on our knees for years as we pray for our unbelieving child, an empty womb, our spouse to be converted, the friend battling cancer, depression to no longer have a hold, a sin to lose its grip, or the gift of just one good friend. We pray and continue to pray, ever fighting the temptation to give up. The temptation comes because nothing seems to happen. If we are honest, many times we wonder if our Father in heaven cares. We bow our head, utter our prayer, plead with the Father, and it seems to rise no higher than the ceiling. How desperate such times can seem and how distant our Heavenly Father appears to be.

Christ, the Good Shepherd, knows His sheep and this struggle. Luke tells us in chapter eighteen verse one that Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus lends His agreement to Luke’s interpretation as he concludes the parable of the unrighteous judge by saying, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” Be relentless, Jesus is saying. Keep praying. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. If an unrighteous judge will respond to the pleadings of a widow and grant justice, how much more our Heavenly Father?

Jesus is comparing the unrighteous judge to God the Father. But more than a comparison, it is a contrast. A popular method of argument in Jewish tradition was an argument from the lesser to the greater. Jesus is in effect asking, “If someone so unrighteous and uncaring will grant justice after persistent pleading, if someone so low and so vile would respond, how much more God your Father?”

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Jason Helopoulos – An Indispensable Virtue

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In Isaiah 66:2, the LORD declares, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Humility draws the gaze of God.1 James explains, “God gives grace to the humble.” What large promises are attached to the virtue of humility!

My friends, do you cultivate humility? Do you long for more of this spiritual fruit–not just wink at it, but actually seek after it? Every Christian should endeavor to obtain the virtue of humility. It’s opposite, spiritual pride, kills. In fact, nothing undermines the very essence of faith more than spiritual pride, nothing that is more antithetical to the Gospel, and nothing more aligns us with the adversary of our Lord. Was this not the sin that cast him out of heaven? Was this not the sin that he incited our first parents to commit, which led to them to being cast out of the Garden? Is it not the root of all sin against God?

Christians, let us remind ourselves that we are in need of God’s grace as much today as we were on the day of our conversion. We wholly depend upon Him. The Christian who boasts of his or her progress in the faith is a pilgrim who has lost his or her way. Don’t we know that the works we manifest–the virtues we exhibit–and the fruits we bear still fall short of the standard? “Be holy as I am holy,” declares the Lord (1 Peter 1:16). Jesus said, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Our meager works do not impress God. Too often, we lose our way because we have allowed the sin of comparison entered our hearts. The Pharisee was blind to how little he looked like God, because he was entirely focused on how superior he believed himself to be in comparison to others (Luke 18:9-14).

The other day I asked my son, “Are you watching Sesame Street?”, he replied, “No, Sesame Street is for babies.” He then proceeded to turn on My Little Ponies. We think we have progressed so far, when it is but a trifling. God expects perfect righteousness. That standard alone should produce humility in Christians and propel us to mortify spiritual pride as much as we are able by the power of the Spirit.

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Jason Helopoulos – Worth It

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When individuals embark upon a life of discipleship in Christ, they commence a life of sacrifice. Our Lord said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). This fills some with hesitation. Yet, what we forsake is mere trifles compared to the treasure we receive. The treasure and joy we gain in the present–and which awaits us in eternity–far surpasses all that we may lose in this life. Christians, no less than unbelievers who are hesitant to yield their life to Christ, do well to remind themselves of this sure promise.

CS Lewis once famously said:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.1

No matter how difficult this life of discipleship may be, it is worth it. Our Lord Jesus makes this very point in the parables of Matthew 13. A man unexpectedly discovers in a field a great treasure. A merchant finds a pearl of great worth. The man in the field sells all he has to purchase one thing. The merchant sells all that he has to purchase just one thing. They value this one thing above all else. More than that, they value this one thing more than all other things combined. The Kingdom of God is exactly like that, said Christ. It is worth it.

This may strike us as extreme. What loss comes from following Christ. Interestingly, Jesus tells us that the man went away from the field with joy, not with sorrow (Matthew 13:44-46). That detail is not a mistake made by either Mattew or Christ. He purposefully attributes this affection to the man. Because great joy is found in the Kingdom. Any sacrifice made it for it is worth it. We all need this reminder throughout our lives. It is worth yielding ourselves to the King and His Kingdom, not just in the moment of saving faith, but in all of life. It is worth being a living sacrifice unto the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). Whether you eat or drink or whatever we do, doing it unto the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). It is worth it. The more invested we are in the Kingdom here, the more we enjoy it here and in the life to come. The more we yield ourselves to this King, the more we know of Him and all His benefits.

My friends, we will never regret the time that we spend sacrificing for others for the sake of the Kingdom. We will never regret the effort employed in fighting sin for the sake of the Kingdom. We will never regret the energy spent seeking righteousness for the sake of the Kingdom. Whatever we give for the Kingdom we will never regret. I dare say, we will never want a refund, never want to exchange this Kingdom for something else, never want a redo, because its value far surpasses all that we would so-call sacrifice in the here and now. I am no prophet, but I would give you this guarantee, if you invest in the Kingdom you will never walk away disappointed. Never.

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Jason Helopoulos – The Uniqueness of Christian Parenting

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There is something wonderfully unique about Christian parents. Christian parents seek to maintain a counter-cultural flavor even as we seek to prepare our children for entrance into that culture as fully-functioning adults. They seek to prepare their children for life on earth at the same time as they are seeking to prepare them for life in heaven. Christian parents see their children as a gift given to them and also as a stewardship to be respected. They are “our children” and yet we also recognize that they belong to another–namely to their Heavenly Father. Christian parenting is an odd endeavor and Christian parents are a rare breed. Here are some of the things that make Christian parenting a unique thing in this fallen world:

1. Christian parents seek to love their children but not worship them.

· They have our hearts, but they cannot dominate our souls. We live for God, not for our children.

2. Christian parents seek to instill morals but not mere morality.

· Outward conformity is not our aim. We long to see their hearts changed and renewed in the Lord.

3. Christian parents seek to uphold a standard but do not seek perfection.

· Even as we point them to the Law of God, we know that they will fail time and again. God’s grace is lavished upon us, we should lavish grace upon them.

4. Christian parents long to see their children succeed but not according to worldly standards.

· Success in our eyes differs from success in the world’s eyes. The success that fills our souls with delight is spiritual above all else.

5. Christian parents look to their children’s future but not to one that is merely here on earth.

· As we raise our children, we are training them for eternity. We have our eyes on eternity and are seeking to set their eyes on eternity.

6. Christian parents want their children to be happy but not at the expense of holiness.

· What a blessing it is to watch your children enjoy life, but we desire a joy that stems from holiness and godly living.

7. Christian parents desire their children’s lives to be unburdened but not void of trial.

· The cares of the world are heavy and we would see all relieved from the shoulders of our children as is possible, but not at the expense of their growth in Christ. We know that trials shape character and we are willing to suffer as we watch our children suffer that the greater end might be realized.

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Jason Helopoulos – Thought of Thoughts

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One of my seminary professors would routinely tell his students, “The most important thought that you will ever have is the first thought you have when you hear the word, ‘God.'” I think that he is correct. Our first thought about God tends to dominate our lives and living more than any other. I would guess that very few Christians first think of God as “Father” when the word “God” is uttered. How rarely are we astonished by the fact that, in Jesus Christ, we are able to call God our Father. And yet, this truth should stir our hearts with joy every single day of our lives. On what grounds can we make such an assertion? When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He began by teaching them to open their prayers with the words, “Our Father.” Surely, Christ could have used other forms of address. He could have taught us to pray, “Our Sovereign,” “Our Lord,” “Our Creator,” or “Our God.” But He doesn’t. Insteas, He uttered the personal, the relational, the most intimate of names–He taught us to pray to “Our Father.” Here are seven reasons why your soul should rattle with delight with the idea that God is your Father.

1. Efficient Cause: As we read in Ephesians 1, “In love He predestined us for adoption.” In love. We see the same thing in 1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God!” The efficient cause of our adoption is God’s love and grace. Another way of saying this is, “There was absolutely no reason in us, or because of us, for Him to adopt us.” In fact, He had every reason not to adopt us. Yet, He was moved, by Himself, to make us His children with all of the attendant privileges–not because of anything in us, but because of everything in Him. It was an act of sheer, free, immeasurable love and grace.

2. Exchange: A great exchange–the greatest of exchanges–occurs in our adoption. When we think about adoption, we immediately think about orphans. But God doesn’t adopt orphans, He adopts enemies. He take His own personal enemies and makes them His children, gives them His name, and grants them His Kingdom. He cuts us off from Adam, removes us from the miserable estate we were in, and places us in the comfort of His own family.

3. Elite Status: We go from destitute and forsaken individuals to the most exalted status in the realm. A status almost beyond comprehension. He makes us heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), seats us above with Him (Eph. 2:6), and grants us the privilege of reigning with Him (Rev. 3:21). Our status is not that of a lesser child, but a co-heir. We need not jockey for position like Jacob and Esau.

4. Estate Immeasurable: Paul says in Romans 8:16-17, “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–hears of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” And, of what is Christ the heir? The writer of Hebrews says, God “appointed him the heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). And we are fellow heirs with Him! We are amazed that King Ahasuerus would offer to Queen Esther anything up to half of his kingdom (Esther 5:6). We receive much more, an inheritance that Peter says is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). It is His promise. And His promises are unfailing. Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

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Jason Helopoulos – 10 Principles for Christian Husbands & Fathers

Shepherd-leading Most Christian men in theologically conservative circles embrace the biblical truth that they are to lead their families in Christ. Though most embrace this reality and are convinced of its necessity, it is equally true that most of us are not quite sure how to do this. Too few of us grew up in Christian homes with strong and godly Christian fathers to model it before us. How does a Christian husband and father lead their family well in Christ? I would suggest the following is a starting place:

Pursue Holiness: This is the key to leading our families in Christ. A Christian husband and father cannot lead where he has not tread. Even as Paul admonished Timothy regarding the pastorate, “Keep a close watch on your life and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16), so it is true of the “pastor” of the home. If holiness is found lacking in our lives, then it will normally be lacking in our family members as well. The greatest impetus to their growth in Christ is our growth in Christ.

Know What You Can Control and Can’t Control: It is a fool who thinks they can control the hearts of others. We have no such charge and thank God, because we have no such ability. We can encourage, exhort, and teach our wives and children in the faith, but we cannot control their embrace of or growing in that faith. But we are charged with maintaining our own hearts. Don’t neglect what you have responsibility for while pursuing that which you are not responsible for. Husbands and fathers serve their family well when they are seeking to control their own anger, selfishness, pride, and tongue. Let us know what we are empowered to do and what only the Lord can do.

Provide in Every Realm: Most Christian husbands and fathers recognize the need to provide for their families materially. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Even as this is true in the physical realm, so it is true in the spiritual. By all means, bring home the bacon! But don’t stop there. Practice consistent and regular family worship; lead your family in reading the Scriptures, praying, and singing. In joy, take your family to church each week, engage your family in the ministry of the church, pursue hospitality by inviting others to your home, pray with and for your wife and children. Don’t think your job is done by putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their stomachs. They are body and soul, they need your provision in the spiritual realm as well.

Practice Humility: Leading in Christ is different from than the world’s view of leadership. The world promotes a type of leadership that demands to be served. The Christian view of leadership demands to serve. Dear Christian husband and father, you are the chief servant in your home. Congratulations! In Christ, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). We lead by serving and often that serving is sacrificial (Ephesians 5:25).

Persist in Joy and Thanksgiving: Set the tone in your home. A Christian husband and father establishes the culture of his home more than anyone else. The moody teenager, fussy toddler, or even sullen wife are not the determining factor. You are. Pursue joy in the Lord and persist in thanksgiving to God for all His good gifts (James 1:17). This is a great starting place for shaping your home.

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Jason Helopoulos – Adoption: A Real Question Many Have

Adoption is growing in Christian circles. And in my opinion, that is a good thing. Though I may be a little biased–our two children are adopted. There are many young Christian husbands and wives currently wrestling with whether they should adopt. And in that wrestling different concerns rise to the surface and need to be weighed. Adoption is not for everyone and it can be accompanied with many challenges. Take your time, pray, and think through the issues before you.

Though they are Christian, love children, and see the great need for adoption, the nagging hesitation that may hold some couples back is a concern I wrestled with before adopting. It wasn’t so much the money, or the time, or even the emotional ups and downs of the adoption process. It was something much deeper. A question that I often felt guilty for even considering. I asked myself on more than one occasion, “Will I love these children as ‘my own?’”

Our daughter has been with us for seven years. My son has been part of our family for four years. And I can honestly say, that there has not been a single day that I have thought anything other than, “These are my children.” I almost never think about them being adopted. Someone once asked me if we had told our children that they weren’t our biological children. I chuckled and said, “Of course, but they don’t need to be told. It is pretty evident. They are Chinese and we are Caucasian.” My daughter has the innocent habit of running up to Asian individuals and putting her arm next to theirs and saying, “Look, we have the same skin!” There is no hiding the fact from her!

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Jason Helopoulos – Rejoice in the Midst of Suffering?

JH Image We only need to read the headlines in the morning paper or turn on the evening news to have confirmed what we already know to be true, suffering is an ever-present companion in this world. As a result of the Fall, every individual throughout the history of humanity has known suffering and Christians are not exempt from this experience. Rather, in many ways the suffering Christians are called to endure can even be greater (John 15:20) than that which the unbeliever endures in this world.

As we face this truth, I have found that nothing is as realistic about suffering as the Bible. The Scriptures do not follow the path of eastern mysticism and deny the reality of suffering. Rather, they treat it as very real. Neither do they make the error of accepting suffering as something that is real, but dismiss it as insignificant. No, much of the suffering in this world is far from trivial. The Scriptures are honest about the trials of the saints of God and about the severity of those same trials. From Abraham to Job to David to Paul, they all suffered and suffered greatly. We could even say that many of them endured some of the worst afflictions that this life has to offer. The life of Job is a monumental testimony to this fact.

However, the Scriptures do no leave us there. Even as there is nothing as honest about suffering in this life as the Scriptures, so there is nothing as comforting in the midst of these trials. The Bible attends to the soul like a physician’s balm. There is healing in its pages, comfort in its words, and hope in its exhortations. Maybe the most surprising, yet comforting, aspect of the Scriptures in the midst of our trials is what they expect from the Christian as we experience these “dark nights of the soul.”

It is not what many Christians will advise and counsel one another, let alone believe themselves, that suffering must merely be endured. Make no mistake, the Bible teaches the need for endurance in the midst of trial (Romans 5:3), but it does not let us stop there. The Lord calls us to approach suffering in a unique and wholly uncommon way. As Christians, we are exhorted to rejoice in the midst of our suffering! Paul says in Romans 5:3, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings…” He says in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…”

We may be tempted to think that Paul was a little confused on this point. Maybe the suffering he experienced was superficial and therefore it was easy for him to pen such lofty words. If only he was accustomed to what we have been forced to endure, he may have sung a different tune. But then we read of the miseries the Apostle Paul experienced (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He was imprisoned, beaten, lashed, shipwrecked, stoned, and in constant danger. He was subjected to hunger, thirst, extreme temperatures, and the mental anguish of worrying about the churches under his care. He was no stranger to suffering and his afflictions were anything but minor. The Apostle Peter, who also knew suffering by experience, exhorts the distressed churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings…” (1 Peter 4:13).

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