Patient Parenting

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in parenting five kids (now aged 2, 12, 14, 18, 19), it’s the need for patience. That has not come easily to the second most impatient man in the world, but parenting has certainly exercised and strengthened this spiritual muscle over the years. So much so, I now believe that patience is Christian parents’ greatest need. Here are six areas of parenting where I’ve learned (and am learning) to exercise patience.

Wait for intellect to develop
Like most parents, especially like most home-schooling parents, when we were starting out we had high hopes for our kids to be experts in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Gaelic by the age of three.

My older boys still remind me of when I tried to teach them the Hebrew imperfect conjugation when they were four and five. Okay, that’s a little extreme, but most young parents over-estimate the intellectual abilities of their children and try to push them too hard too fast.

Even with teens, though, there are some lessons that just can’t be learned until the brain connections are formed. Now, when our kids can’t seem to grasp something, no matter how hard we or they try, we just wait a few months and try again.

Then, “Ping!” It’s there. In seconds.

Waiting can save a lot of work and stress — for us and them.

Wait for maturity to kick in
Sometimes we might look at teens and wonder, “When will they ever grow up?” They can get so excited about trivialities such as computer games, nail paint, muscle size, clothing brands, engine capacity, Vines, memes, etc. They can get so desperately upset about catty comments, rejection, and put-downs. Their social skills and not very social or skillful.

We comfort, we cajole, we counsel, we correct, we scream; and they still revert to toddlerhood.

A year or two later, we notice they’ve left childish things behind — not just their toys but their tantrums — and maturity has crept up on them. Priorities have changed and they are even able to look adults in the eye and talk to them.

Wait for discipline to work
Perhaps this is the toughest area of all in which to exercise patience. We use every tool at our disposal — graduating from the ruler to the rod to the slipper to the belt to the whip to the scourge to the nail remover to the rack to banning Facebook (OK, the last one’s a joke), and still no change for weeks, months, or even years.

Then one day we realize, “Hey, we haven’t had to deal with that problem for ages.” Like all fruit, the fruit of discipline can be a long time growing. Sometimes it’s because although the child realizes they’re in the wrong, they are so proud that they won’t admit to it or immediately change their ways. Rather they want to do it at their own (slower) pace. Other times it’s because they genuinely need to work through it in their minds so that it becomes a conviction rather than just a convention. Remember, overnight fruit is rarely good fruit.

Wait for lessons to be learned
We can warn and warn and warn about driving too fast, using the phone while driving, etc., and our words just evaporate as they touch their ears. Their first accident with resulting repair bills, insurance deductible, personal injury, points on the license, increased premiums, etc., usually teach more than any of our words. Physical, financial, legal, and social pain, are often the most effective teachers

Wait for purpose to clarify
We all want to see our kids have a purpose in life, to have a sense of direction, to choose a course of study or work that is meaningful and rewarding. Instead, they can meander from job to job, from course to course, from ambition to ambition, from identity to identity, sometimes for quite a few years.

We watch with increasing anxiety and frustration, we pressure and push them to get a move on, to get a grip, to dedicate themselves to something — anything.

All seems lost, when, wonder of wonders, they find their groove, their niche, their true identity and purpose in life. They have a new energy, a new enthusiasm, a new focus, and a new drive. Everything falls into place.

Wait for the soul to be saved
If there’s one thing we want for our kids above all, it’s that they know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior from their earliest years. Yet, although we can do so much for them as parents, we cannot force this, we cannot make this happen. If it’s hard waiting for their purpose to clarify, for lessons to be learned, etc., it’s hardest of all waiting for them to be converted — partly because it’s our number one priority, partly because the stakes are so high, partly because without this we feel all our parenting will have been in vain.

Patient waiting doesn’t excuse us from teaching, correction, discipline, exhortation, etc., but it does save us from exasperation, exhaustion, and expiration.

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The Belt Is Still Buckled: America’s 100 Most Bible-Minded Cities of 2016
See where your city places in the “Most Bible-minded cities” league table.

To Prevent Back Pain, Orthotics Are Out, Exercise Is In – The New York Times
“Of all the options currently available to prevent back pain, exercise is really the only one with any evidence that it works.” Only two things I’d add are this book and Mackenzie lumbar rolls. They revolutionized my life 12 years ago,

The Necessity of Expository Preaching
Derek Thomas: “According to the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, the best thing he ever did was to discover the “fundamentalist” teacher Jack Grout, who taught him the basics that he has followed ever since. Great preachers, like great golfers, follow basic rules. The more they practice these rules, the better they become.”

What I hope someone would say at my funeral
Aaron Armstrong: “Sometimes, the slightly morbid side of me wonders what would be said at my funeral. There’s a tendency to clean up people’s lives. I’ve been to, and known others who’ve had this experience as well, where you start to wonder if you wound up in the wrong memorial service. The person being spoken of doesn’t match your experience.”

20 Quotes from Sinclair Ferguson’s New Book on Legalism, Antinomianism, and Assurance
“This book nourished my faith even while ex posing subtle ways I’m tempted to both legalism and antinomianism, and how the gospel is the answer to both. Yes, a book on an 18th-century Scottish theological controversy over law and grace did all that.”

New Book

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson. Hardcover now available.

Kindle Books

The Religions Next Door: What we need to know about Hudaism,Hinduism,Buddhism and Islam and what reporters are missing by Marvin Olasky $1.99.

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness $1.99.

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J I Packer $2.99.

International Conference on John Owen

International Conference on ‘John Owen: Between Orthodoxy and Modernity’, Theological University Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, August 31 – September 2, 2016

This international conference, co-organized by five universities from the Netherlands and Belgium, marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of the English Puritan John Owen (1616–1683). As a leading orthodox Reformed theologian he lived on the brink of a new age. Therefore his theology is important for understanding the developing mutual relationship between orthodoxy and the modern context.

The central focus of this conference is the important historical position of John Owen between orthodoxy and modernity. As a leading proponent of Protestant orthodoxy, working in the early modern context, Owen was sensitive to contemporary cultural and political developments and helped to refine the understanding of the relationship between church and state. The conference aims to sharpen the lens through which the relevance and significance of Owen’s work can be interpreted for today. Thus current evangelicalism, with its emphasis on individual faith, can only be properly understood from its roots in Puritanism within the context of early modernity. John Owen stood on the forefront of the evangelical vision of the local church as the predominant form of church governance, also known as congregationalism. The term ‘modernity’ in the title of the conference therefore refers not only to the early modern context of Owen’s work, but also to the movement rooted in the Renaissance and the Reformation which took further shape in several stages in the so-called turn to the subject and the new ideas about individual and community. Thus, modernity is characterized by concepts such as anthropocentrism, anti-traditionalism, rationalization, individualization, democratization and the fragmenting of life. This modernising had great effects on epistemology and views of God, community, self and world, since the relationship between Creator and creation was reinterpreted. As a leading church leader, theologian, academic administrator and politician, Owen stood at the heart of this development.

The central issue for our conference is: How did Owen as an orthodox theologian relate to modernity? Was he conscious of tendencies that we now label ‘modern’? If so, how did he respond to these? Can certain aspects of his work be interpreted as symptomatic of changes in the European culture of his time? Was Owen a modern theologian without being aware of that fact? Can modern tendencies be traced in his theology proper, his Christology, his ecclesiology, his anthropology, etc.? Did he foster the development of modernity, e.g. by unconsciously stimulating individualization, based on his spirituality of democratization as related to his view of the church? Our interest in these questions is not only from an historical perspective; we are also interested in what we can learn from his relationship to modernity today. Thus we are interested to explore to which extent the way how Owen dealt with the contextual shift from early or even pre-modernity to modernity might be relevant for the current cultural context as it shifts from modernity to postmodernity.

We would like to assess this central question from four different perspectives:

-        historical: Owen’s  theology in the context of early modernity;

-        systematic-theological: the relevance of Owen’s theology today;

-        theological-spiritual: the inspiration from his Puritan spirituality for many people today;

-        Owen’s reception: the use of his theology in the Dutch Further Reformation, in Neocalvinism, and in international movements such as Methodism and Pietism.

The keynote speakers are respectively:

-        Prof. Dr. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia USA)

-        Prof. Dr. Ivor J. Davidson (University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland)

-        Prof. Dr. Kelly M. Kapic (Covenant College, Lookout Mountain Georgia, USA)

-        Prof. Dr. Joel R. Beeke (Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, USA)

We are also now opening up the call for papers, welcoming contributions related to our main theme ‘John Owen: Between Orthodoxy and Modernity’. We plan later to publish the keynote lectures and papers in a prestigious series with an academic publisher.

We will welcome any contribution that is related to our main theme ‘John Owen: Between Orthodoxy and Modernity’.  This theme will be discussed from four different perspectives, as the Announcement of the conference shows.

We invite theologians interested in the (sub)theme(s) to submit their proposal for a paper presentation at this Owen Conference in an abstract of about 250 words to:  Please, make sure that your contribution fits in one of the four research areas c.q. perspectives mentioned above and make this relation clear in the introduction of your paper.

We envisage papers of about 2,000 words, in order to allow enough time for discussion during the presentation of the papers.

Proposals should be sent before April 15th , 2016.

This three-day conference, to be held in the lovely setting of Apeldoorn, aims at inspiring research on John Owen and thus stimulating further theological work ultimately for the glory of God.

To quote Owen himself, an ‘end of all true theology is the cultivation of a most holy and sweet communion with God, wherein lies the true happiness of mankind.’ (Biblical theology, 618)

Prof. Dr. A.J. Beck (Evangelical Theological Faculty Leuven)
Prof. Dr. H. van den Belt (University of Groningen)
Dr. J.M. Burger (Theological University Kampen)
Dr. M.J. Kater (Theological University Apeldoorn)
Prof. Dr. W. van Vlastuin (VU University Amsterdam)

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The New Tolerance Must Crumble, Says Don Carson
One major lesson Carson takes from the Davis controversy is that America is clearly a nation that has “progressively moved away from whatever Judeo-Christian-Deist roots that it once had.” We are increasingly “a nation of millions who vote at once without any distinctive Christian contributions or commitments, voting for things that we will find abominable. We are not there yet, but that is the direction in which things are going.”

The World Needs Pastors
“There is much in life that cannot be fixed, but must simply be endured. Pastors are fitted for this reality. They sit beside their members when the darkness closes in. They help them fight off depression and despair. They offer simple acts of kindness, bringing a bite to eat or a card or a bouquet of flowers. Again, nothing earth-shaking; nothing that anyone is going to term the “Next Big Trend” on the evangelical conference circuit.”

The Blessing of Visiting the Sick
“I am writing this post because, over the past three weeks, I have spent more time at various hospitals (visiting congregants and the family members of congregants) than I have spent in almost every other year of ministry combined.”

Don’t Theologize or Spiritualize Ministry Mediocrity
David Prince challenges us to preach the Word and reform the church.

When our commitment to the primacy of the Word and gospel does not trickle-down to every aspect of congregational life, we are like the obese person lecturing on the primacy of personal fitness or someone living opulent lifestyle lecturing about frugality.

If I’m going to offend people, I want it to be for Gospel reasons only.

Jesus wants Democrats and Republicans to come to him. Socialists and capitalists, the one percent and the 99, black, white, and brown, and he would like them all to feel welcome in your church. Of all the obstacles we can put in people’s way, a political endorsement is the dumbest, and most easily avoidable, of them all.

A Matter of Inches
How about this for a phone call?

The voice told me that my daughter had been run over by a car while walking on campus and that she was going to the hospital in an ambulance.

Life in Twenty Year Stages
This is a neat way of looking at the different seasons of life:

How do we count our days that usually amount to seventy or eighty years? One of many ways is to count by twenty year increments. These time blocks give us a general roadmap and help to order our expectations and sense of responsibility in life as we walk before the Lord and ask him to establish the work of our hands here on earth.

Kindle Books

Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You by John Macarthur $1.99.

God’s High Calling for Women by John Macarthur $4.61.

The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary by Mark Sanborn. $1.99. Here’s my one-hour-skim-read weekend book – a light read, lots of stories, and maybe pick up a little nugget or two.

What’s Your Biggest Regret
Thought-provoker. Life-changer?

Eavesdropping On Two Non-Christian Deathbeds

In the past week, two articles have given insights into how non-Christians face death, especially what thoughts they have as they look back on their past and look ahead to whatever may lie ahead.

A Good Doctor Dying a Good Death

The first one is Dr Oliver Sacks, a Jewish intellectual, a homosexual, at times an atheist, and “a great chronicler of medical oddities.” His posthumous volume Gratitude, written in the last year of his life and published in November, contains four essays on the theme of “What comes next?” In A Good Doctor Dying a Good Death, Jeremy Lott selects poignant extracts that read like a hopeless version of Ecclesiastes.

When contemplating his 80th birthday in relatively good health he said that he found it hard to take mortality too seriously:

“I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize that it is almost over.”

When he received his terminal diagnoses he wrote:

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.” He decided to take stock, to write, to travel, to spend time with friends and loved ones, and to tune out anything “inessential” including NewsHour, politics, and global warming.

Towards the end of the book Sacks is “weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer” and still puzzling out “what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life.” His last words:

“I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”

My Experience With Lymphoma

In this lengthy article, Harvard professor, Steven Kelman, also Jewish, shares some of the lessons about how he navigated the ups and downs of a life-changing diagnosis. What surprised him most was that he did not fall apart in connection with my diagnosis or treatment.

The strangest feature, not only of those first days but for much of the year that followed, was how preternaturally calm I felt. I am amazed I did not fall apart in connection with my initial diagnosis or the months of treatment that followed.

But it also revealed a darker side.

I also confronted less-flattering things about myself, including not having paid enough attention to friends or neighbors, and not doing enough volunteering. Both were related to obsession with work. I needed to decide how, if at all, I would change my life in what would I hoped would be my post-cancer world.

Part of this was the result of experiencing the kindness of friends.

There is no greater cliché about how people react to serious illness than to note how it makes one appreciate the importance of friends. But clichés become clichés for a reason. I would not say that before getting sick I ignored my friends, but, obsessed with work, I didn’t give them the attention they should have received….The only times I became tearful during these months came when I cried tears of joy in response to the kindness of friends and colleagues.

Some weeks after successful stem-cell treatment, Kelman is now cautiously beginning to look forward and planning on doing some of the good works he promised to do when in hospital:

I had done some volunteering before my illness, but not enough. When I got sick, volunteers from my synagogue often drove me to the hospital; I told myself that if I got better, I would volunteer for the synagogue’s cancer driving activity; three weeks ago, I called to sign up. I also will be speaking with a church in Cambridge about helping an immigrant child who doesn’t speak English at home. 

Contrast and Questions

When I read these articles I was struck by the contrast with so many Christian deathbeds that I’ve been present at. Yes, some Christians do look back with regret on parts of their lives, but they also know that all their sins, failings, shortcomings are covered with the blood of Christ. What a difference that makes to a person’s peace when dying. They don’t need to live longer to make up for the past with more good works in the future. Their record is clear, their conscience is clean.

I’m also intrigued by both men’s resolve to spend more time with friends and loved ones. That should be a warning to us all not to wait until it’s too late to cultivate and cherish such relationships.

And what do we make of Kelman’s preternatural calm? He explains part of it by the busyness of the treatments not giving him much time to think. But there was more to it than that. Clearly it wasn’t a calm built on Christian peace. Was it built on ignorance of what truly lay ahead? Was it God’s common grace to a man who had not sought or found God’s saving grace? Was it the Devil giving a false peace?

Lastly, when Dr Sacks said, “I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize that it is almost over,” I couldn’t help think that the dying Christian can say, “I often feel that life is about to end, only to realize that it’s really just about to begin.” It’s too late for Dr. Sacks, but I hope and pray that Dr. Kelman will find the friend of sinners and the peace of Christ.

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A special edition of Check out devoted to some recent posts at my Dad’s blog at Food for the soul at the click of your mouse.

The Greatest Miracle of All
“There is no doubt that the creation of the human nature of Jesus Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary was the greatest miracle of all. There is nothing to compare with it. Indeed, it is not just a miracle, but an amazing intervention by God in the history of the world.”

Conceived in the Womb of a Sinner, yet without Sin.
“The birth of Jesus, which we make so much of at this time of year is a distorted emphasis. The birth itself was completely normal and natural.”

Another Year Begins.
A call to believers to run the race set before them by God.

The Big Issue for the Unbeliever for 2016
“There is nothing in this life more important than getting right with God, while we have opportunity.”

Redeeming the Time
An excellent reminder as the first month of 2016 starts to slip behind us.

Walking Carefully
“God is intensely, even fastidiously, interested in the way His child is living. There are many aspects to this. Today we will look at one of these aspects: Walking carefully.”

Kindle Deals

Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World by Ajith Fernando ($3.99)

H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. by Brad Lomenick ($3.99)

New Atheism: A Survival Guide by Graham Veale ($2.99)

New Book

History: A Student’s Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition) by Nathan A. Finn ($11.99)