A Transforming Truth
One of the most powerful biblical truths that has transformed both my life and ministry is the touchstone proposition that Jesus Christ is Lord over both the temporal and the eternal. To paraphrase Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, there is not a square inch in all the universe that Jesus Christ doesn’t claim as his own.
That means Jesus Christ is Lord over our salvation, theological, philosophical and ethical views, our thoughts, words, behaviors, attitudes, values, family life, work, checking account, priorities, political views, what we watch on TV and the Internet, what we read, our friendships, our service and witness, and so on. He is Lord over it all. That means he has the right to exercise authority over all of it and may properly expect our obedience in every sphere of our lives. In fact, Jesus asks us what’s the use of calling him Lord if we’re not going to do what he commands (Luke 6:46).
The Pathway to Freedom
To be sure, he is a loving, gracious, good, patient, compassionate, and merciful Lord, but he is Lord nonetheless and we may not rebel against him with impunity. Amazingly, once we come to know him and relate to him as our Lord, he invites us to go deeper in our relationship and know him as brother and friend. The paradox is only as we submit to his Lordship in every sphere of our lives do we become free enough to pursue all he has created, redeemed and called us to be.
A New Worldview
This view of Christ’s Lordship ought to inform the way we see the world in which we live. Like a pair of eye-glasses with the proper prescription, we can only see things aright as we look at the world around us through the lens of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I love the way C.S. Lewis put it. He wrote,
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Our fallen nature prevents us from seeing everything perfectly, but we should know because Jesus is Lord, we are able to see the world much closer to the way he desires us to see it.
Whether We Recognize Him or Not
The truth is, Jesus is Lord over heaven and earth whether or not we choose to recognize his Lordship. However, we are able to live far more faithfully when we are living in harmony with who he is. Things don’t work well when we’re trying to be our own Lord. Have you noticed?
Is He Your Lord?
Part of my own calling is to serve others by helping them come to a place where they too will bow before Christ, confess him as their Lord, and live in joyfully harmonious submission with that reality. I deeply desire to help folks understand what it means to submit to Christ’s Lordship in every sphere of their lives, beginning with their salvation. It’s vital to realize the Christian faith is not a self-help program that will be of use to anyone (or even make sense) apart from a person dying to self and becoming a new creature in Christ. Only then can a person live the life God calls them to live. Only then is Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, living in and through them by his Spirit (Romans 14:9).
In what areas of your life do you find it easy to submit to Christ’s Lordship? What makes it easy to do so? In what areas of your life do you find it difficult to accept Christ’s Lordship and obey him? Why? What can you start doing today to help you grow in your obedience to Christ in these difficult areas?
Grace and Truth,
Fear and Trembling
What is family worship? What does it look like in practice? I’m often asked questions like these. Family worship is one of my favorite things to talk about, and yet, there’s a danger in writing on topics like this, or parenting, or marriage, or any other topic in the same neighborhood. The danger is that the reader may begin thinking the writer has: 1.) Figured all this stuff out and, 2.) Is executing it perfectly. In my case, both assumptions would be a mistake. I’m learning with each and every new day. But I feel I have learned enough to add some value to other parents just starting out. And so I prayerfully pass it along.
Three Forms of Worship
The puritans used to distinguish three forms of worship: Private, Family, and Corporate. Private worship would include your “alone time” with God – in prayer, reading his Word, reading devotional literature, singing hymns, etc. Corporate worship takes place when a local congregation gathers together (usually on the Lord’s Day or perhaps a Wednesday evening) to sing, pray, receive the sacraments, and hear God’s Word read and exposited. Family worship, as you have no doubt guessed by now, is a combination of the two, (minus the sacraments), done in the context of the family.
How We Do It
My family typically has family worship during our breakfast time together. It’s a process that seems to be ever-evolving, but I’ll give you a sample of what we typically do.
Prayer and Scripture
Usually my wife or I open in prayer, thanking God for blessing us through the night, giving us life for another day, and bringing us together to worship him. We are presently reading through the Gospel of John, so I will read about half a chapter of that. John’s chapters are pretty long, so I have been hesitant to attempt to take on a whole chapter. When we have read Paul’s epistles, a whole chapter isn’t as demanding. An accompanying reason I don’t read a whole chapter at a time is because there’s so much rich content in each chapter. Just like a sermon, each chapter needs to be broken down into smaller bite-sized portions so that the family can talk in greater depth about what has just been read.
After I read the text, I try to lift one or two thoughts from it and share those with the children. Or, more often than not, I’ll ask them questions to make sure they got the key points. I once heard R.C. Sproul, Jr. say he always preached sermons to his children during their family worship time and that his sermons were generally 30…(long pause for effect)…seconds. Our “sermon” is not much longer.
After our Bible reading we move to a catechism. A catechism is simply a way to learn the Christian faith in a question-and-answer format. For example, the first question of our catechism asks, “What’s our primary purpose for being here?” Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We spend one week (in theory) on each question. There is a very brief devotional explanation of the question and answer for each day of the week. Before I ask a new catechism question, I review the last few questions, just to make sure the kids (as well as mom and dad) remember what we’ve already learned.
After our catechism question, we move to a devotional that “hits the kids where they live” in a more obvious way. I qualified that statement the way I did because I believe reading Scripture and studying catechism questions are essential for discipling our children. But in our day and age, those two things are often seen as “irrelevant for life.” I think it’s all in the delivery.
After that, depending on our time, we may sing a hymn or the Gloria Patria, recite the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and lastly, pray for our day and any prayer concerns we know about.
That may sound like a lot, but actually 15 minutes would be our absolute longest. And even that would have sporadic intermissions of telling my youngest son to get back in his chair or to quit stealing his sibling’s bacon.
When you first begin family worship, it may feel a little mechanical and awkward. Trying new things usually feels that way. But trust me, you do get into the groove after a while. And best of all, the kids love doing it. Ours even remind us if we forget. You can’t beat that!
First of all, you will need to figure out a pattern of family worship that fits your family. Our way isn't the "right" way. It’s our way. Besides that, it changes from time to time to fit the needs and/or demands of our family. There's an old saying that goes, “the one you use is the one that works.” That's true with family worship.
Secondly, family worship isn't the only way to disciple your children. In fact, it shouldn't be. However, if you want to take the Bible’s admonition seriously to disciple your children, then I believe this is a wonderful and effective way to do it. Besides that, it's fun! And, it’s the best investment in eternity you can make.
Did your family have family worship when you were growing up or is this a new concept for you? If you did, what were some of the things you did together as a family during that time? Do you have a favorite memory from that time? If you are now a parent, do you practice family worship with your child(ren)? If not, why not? If so, what are some things you do as a family? There are many parents who would like to start doing family worship together but don’t know how to get started. If your family does family worship, perhaps you could share your experiences and ideas with someone who would like to start it with their family.
Grace and Truth,
Genesis 7:1 - The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.
All in the Family
God works through families. He blesses through families. In the Old Testament we learn he even curses through families. This is the covenantal nature of God’s work throughout Scripture.
Noah found favor with God (Gen. 6:8). Noah was found by God to be a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and walking with God (Gen. 6:9). Because God saw Noah in such a condition, Noah’s whole family was blessed – his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law.
We find God’s covenantal faithfulness in the New Testament as well. The Syrophoenician woman’s daughter was possessed by an evil spirit (Mk. 7:25). So the mother went to Jesus and begged him to deliver her daughter from it. After testing her, Jesus rewarded the mother for her persistence and faith by healing the daughter from the spirit (Mk. 7:29). The child was blessed because of the mother’s faith. This is often how God works.
Psalm 128:1-4 reminds us of this.
Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in his ways.
 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.
 Thus is the man blessed
who fears the Lord.
Noah was blessed in such a way. So was Abraham. So was the Syrophoenician woman, Lydia, and the Philippian jailer.
Dying That Others May Live
If this is how God works, does it not then behoove us to pursue righteousness and blamelessness for all we are worth? Should we not desire to walk with the Lord daily? Wouldn’t fearing the Lord be wise? The personal blessings that would flow from such a sacrificial life seem reason enough. But the covenantal blessings on your children and your children’s children make this both obvious and compelling. Even in the land of rugged individualism, we can grasp this.
In light of this, let us resolve to give our lives for our spouses, our children, and to all to whom we can minister. Our lives for theirs. It is only in this kind of death we will find life – for ourselves and for our families.
What are three ways your faithfulness impacts the life of your family? Your unfaithfulness? There’s an old saying that one’s faith is more often “caught” than “taught.” Pray about how you can start living more faithfully before your family. Call a family meeting and share your ideas with them. Sharing and brainstorming together can be a wonderful time for your family to grow closer to one another.
Grace and Truth,
Everyone Is A Theologian
Godly men know that, for good or ill, everyone is a theologian. We each think thoughts and imagine ideas about God, even if those thoughts and ideas are that God does not exist. Some have plumbed the depths of theology while others have only skimmed along the surface. Regardless of one's efforts or abilities, thinking theologically is unavoidable.
Far from being dry, boring, and stale, theology ought to be spirit-renewing, soul-forming, and life-transforming. It isn't (or, shouldn't) be merely for academic and intellectual pursuits, but instead, to draw us closer to God and conform us more to his likeness. Thinking more intentionally about God should lead us to know him better and love him more. Indeed, the more we learn of God's magnificence, the more worship, joy, and gratitude ought to break out among us. In fact, it will become impossible to contain our pleasure brought forth from our discoveries of the person and work of God.
Soli Deo Gloria
The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: "What is the chief end of man?"
The answer: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."
To increasingly know ("about" and "relationally") and love God leads men pursuing godliness to seek their Lord's glory in all aspects of their lives. They shift from self-centered to God-centered lives in which every sphere is integrated because each is connected to and empowered by God, who is at the center. And each part exists to bring God the glory due his name.
Studying textbooks about God alone won't accomplish all of this. But pursuing God more intentionally will move us in the right direction of knowing, loving, following, and trusting God, as well as seeking and submitting to his will. This is theology at its best.
Brothers, is God your chief pursuit and greatest desire?
Soli Deo Gloria,
Matthew 19:20-22 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”  Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Here’s a classic example of Jesus teaching on what authentic discipleship ought to look like in a person’s life. All through the gospels Jesus taught that to be his disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow him.
In today’s text we have a young man who wanted eternal life. Therefore, he asked Jesus how he might obtain this desire. Jesus answered him by telling him to obey the commandments, for that would show his love for God. Jesus then listed several of the commandments. The young man’s response? “All these I have kept.”
His answer reveals at least three things.
Three Wrong Answers
First, the young man was ignorant about what “obeying the commandments” meant. His understanding was superficial at best. His claim was that he had obeyed all the commandments since his youth. And so Jesus simply pointed out that this man’s great wealth was a stumbling block to his pursuit of God and eternal life. In so doing, Jesus reveals the man was guilty of coveting, at the very least. He broke that commandment.
Second, the very first commandment instructs us not to have any other gods before the one true God. This man seemed to have placed his great wealth before God, so much so, that when he was asked to give it away, he could not do so, not even for eternal life. There’s another commandment broken.
Third, to truly love and serve God looks like faith and obedience in a person’s life, not mere external conformity to a few of your favorite commandments. Jesus exposed the real motivations of this man’s heart by telling him to deny himself (give away his possessions) and follow Christ (give his life to Christ completely).
The young man went away sad because he had great wealth.
What’s Tripping You Up?
Money and possessions were this man’s impediment to faithful discipleship. It is for many of us. We may hastily protest it isn’t. “But,” we quickly add, “Jesus’ words in this text are not a universal command for every person who would follow Jesus.” And that’s true. Material wealth was indeed this particular man’s barrier to faithful discipleship. But how many of us could downsize everything we own and give away the saved money to the church, missionaries, mercy ministries, etc.? How many of us could take lesser paying jobs that would enable us to spend more time with our families? How do you immediately and viscerally react to those suggestions? These examples show us we may be far closer to the rich young man than we care to admit.
What is your obstacle to being a whole-hearted follower of Christ? Maybe your obstacle isn’t wealth. Maybe it’s your desire to please others more than God. Perhaps it’s the fact that you worry more about what others think about you than what God thinks about you. It may be that you don’t want to give up the particular sin you’re enjoying for a season. Or maybe there are a variety of struggles tripping you up in multiple areas of your life.
Dying is Hard
When it comes down to it, denying ourselves (dying to ourselves) is hard. And we don’t like “hard.” We like easy, convenient, and quick. Thus, we’ve created a culture of remote controls, drive-through windows, and microwave ovens. This mentality makes for poor sacrificial servants of the Kingdom. And of those who hold such an attitude, our Lord says, it is hard to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
If we would follow Jesus, we must rid ourselves of all encumbrances that inhibit the “following” to which we are called (Hebrews 12:1). We must “give it away” so our focus will be fixed keenly upon our King.
We must take the long and eternal view instead of the alternative short and temporal ones. Because those who deny themselves and do the hard work of leaving their houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mothers or children or fields (work) for Christ’s sake, will receive “a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29). And put that way, the decision seems like a no-brainer.
What do you need to “give away?” What is that obstacle in your life that is making it difficult for you to wholly and truly follow Jesus? What is about that obstacle (or those obstacles) that seems to have a grip on you? What are three things you can do, beginning today, to loosen the grip of those strongholds and find the freedom of joyful obedience God desires for you?
Grace and Truth,
The Mission Field in Our Backyard
If you were called to serve as a missionary in a foreign land, you would no doubt seek to learn as much as possible about that land and its inhabitants. You would want to learn how to speak the language of the people, as well as discover their customs and beliefs, in order to get to know them and communicate effectively with them. How else would you be able to meet their eternal and temporal needs?
In our world today, what is true about ministering in a foreign land is equally as true in our own. As many missiologists and evangelists have pointed out, if we desire to effectively reach our diverse culture for Christ, we must know the language, customs, and beliefs of the people we’re around every day. Jesus reminds us that these people are our neighbors whom we’re called to love.
Yet, we know that behind people’s perceived temporal needs there lurk real and eternal needs that only the Lord Jesus Christ can meet. Irrelevance is not a mark of faithfulness or a virtue to celebrate. Seeking to understand where people are “coming from” spiritually, philosophically, psychologically, and emotionally is not necessarily accommodation and compromise. Building relationships, meeting needs, and giving answers that do not include the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel is. It was the Apostle Paul who said he had become all things to all people that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). We can be certain he was able to do so without sinning or selling out. Should we not seek to follow in his footsteps?
Called to be Like the Men of Issachar
Issachar was one of Jacob’s sons whose descendants grew to become one of Israel’s twelve tribes. By the time of King David, we are told in 1 Chronicles 12:32, that among the great fighting warriors of Israel were the men of Issachar, who were distinguished by knowing or understanding the times in which they lived and were able to advise Israel accordingly. It was the Lord Jesus who castigated the religious leaders of his day for being able to predict the weather but not being able to interpret the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3). God continues to call godly men to know the times in which they live to provide a faithful witness for Christ and his Kingdom in our own day.
Godly men should help folk view the temporal world in which they live with and through the light of God’s eternal perspective. Whether the focus is theology, worldview, ethics, culture, Western civilization, peace, justice, economics, etc., godly men are called to provide those in their spheres of influence with biblically faithful, culturally aware, and practically useful wisdom and guidance. The goal should be to lovingly equip those entrusted to their care as well as to faithfully confront unrighteousness and evil with God’s truth. Such vigilant ambassadors of God’s Kingdom are called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in their own personal mission fields to which they have been called to serve.
The King of Our Mission Field
Jesus Christ is the Lord over every mission field and we want to communicate that touchstone truth to every man, woman and child in a way that is true, significant and attractive. We cannot save people ourselves but that doesn’t mean we should not bear witness to our Lord as lovingly, clearly, and faithfully as possible.
Like the men of Issachar, we need to know the times in which we live and effectively, humbly, and respectfully give an answer to everyone who asks us about the hope that we have in this world and the world to come.
Have you identified your personal mission field? Who is in it? What can you do to better learn the “language, customs, and beliefs” of those to whom God is calling you to bear witness?
Grace and Truth,
A Revolutionary Truth
St. Augustine supposedly said, “If Christ is not Lord of all, then Christ is not Lord at all.” To understand Christ as Lord of all the universe, and not merely the religious spheres of life, has been a revolutionary idea in my life. This truth has profound implications for Christians living out their faith in this world.
At the very least it means followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must understand that their faith is not for Sunday mornings only but for the rest of their lives as well. The Christian faith is a complete world and life view. There is no area of one’s life about which Christ is unconcerned. Therefore, Christians must live renovated lives in submission to and aligned with the Lordship of Jesus Christ, all in the power of his sovereign Spirit.
Becoming a Christian, and then living as one, means far more than a morally cleaned up personal life. Of course that’s included, but it means much more. Understanding Christ as Lord means we must learn to think Christianly about every aspect of our lives – how we behave toward our family, how we handle our checkbook, how we think about current events, how we exercise integrity at work, how we respond to injustice or immorality – all of these things and more must flow out of our understanding of Christ’s Lordship. Such things comprise faithful discipleship and are the fruit of submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord.
If Christ is Lord of all, then that also means Christians need to expand their spheres of influence. We must not embrace isolated Christianity. We are a community who lives within a broader community. It has been said we have dual citizenship. We are citizens of this world, but also citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Christ is not only concerned about our Christian circles, but is also passionately interested about those outside our circles. The church which believes in and embraces the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the church which seeks to invade the world with the good news of the Kingdom of God. And this Kingdom changes everything.
John Wesley’s England was thoroughly transformed by the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It is said, even by secular historians, that were it not for Wesley’s influence, England would have experienced the same messy revolution as France. Wesley and other Christians, however, influenced by the Lordship of Jesus Christ, preached the gospel and turned England upside down through the lives of transformed men and women marching under the orders of their Savior and King.
My understanding of Christ’s Lordship has impacted what I pass on to others as a pastor and witness of Christ. I do not teach a secular/sacred distinction that leads to compartmentalized lives. I do not communicate a Christ who is unconcerned about our culture or world. I do not tell people about a Jesus who makes no demands upon every sphere of their lives.
Jesus is certainly my precious Savior, full of grace and mercy. But as Lord, he beckons me to submit all of my life to him so I may become more fully the man he created, redeemed, and called me to be. And because I love him, what else can I do but follow him (John 14:15, 21, 23)?
Take out a clean sheet of paper and write down every sphere of your life and every interest and responsibility you have. Next to each item you wrote, put the letter, “L” for “Lord,” or the letters, “NL” for “Not Lord,” based on whether or not you are submitting to Christ’s Lordship in those areas. What are the results? What are the areas of your life you find yourself not submitting to Christ? Why do you think that is? What can you do, starting today, to live more faithfully to Christ in those areas?
Grace and Truth,
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