Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hey Barnabas, Don’t Compromise!

For whatever it is worth, I took a spiritual gifts test in college and it determined that I was most like Barnabas.  This means that I am more of an encourager and peacemaker type.  This is pretty accurate according to my limited self-awareness. 

As I was preparing my Bible Study in Acts 11 for Sunday School this week, I came across this quote about Barnabas. I found it to be stunning as it revealed to me how even our good qualities can overreach at times and often show us how flawed we are as human beings.

“People like Barnabas are always needed in the church.  They are peacemakers, the go-betweens who seek no glory for themselves but only seek to bring out the best in others.  But “would-be” Barnabases of today need to hear a further lesson from this outstanding biblical figure.  Barnabases want everyone to be happy, but sometimes it simply is not possible to please everyone without serious compromise of one’s basic convictions.  Barnabas found that out later at Antioch when, in order to placate the conservative Jewish Christians “from James” (Jerusalem), he withdrew from table fellowship with those very Gentile-Christian converts we see him witnessing to so enthusiastically (Gal 2:11-13)”—John Polhil Acts in NAC Commentary, p 272. Italics mine.

I admit it: In my perfect world I desire everyone to be happy and to get along.  At times, I get disgusted with how often Christians can quibble over things that I feel are irrelevant—but it is here where I need my warning as a would-be Barnabas: don’t compromise.  Have your convictions and stick to them, while at the same time still being as much of a peacemaker and encourager as you can possibly be, yet without compromise. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Disengaged Dad Confesses

Sometimes, I hate how I am.  Literally, I can look at myself and see my own shortcomings and failures that others don’t even have to point out to me.  Often this has been the case in my parenting.  Whether it is impatience, being too harsh with my children, or just not showing them the attention that I should, I know my failures as a father.  But one thing I continue to notice in myself is that I am not fully engaged with my children.  Sometimes when they talk, I simply don’t hear them.  Or worse, when they do talk, I can appear to be listening to them as I am thinking about something else, or worse, checking my email. 
As I thought through how I can improve on this, I came up with the following short list for now (yes I work best with lists)

1.    Know that I am a forgiven dad by Jesus Christ:  There was only one perfect human being, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I know that I will sin daily as a man, husband, father and pastor.  All of this though is no need for me to despair, rather it serves to remind me of the gospel and reinforces my need for Christ.  So even my failures as a father humbles me before Christ.  Even if I were the best father I could be, I still desperately need Christ.  This does not mean that I do not try harder to be a better dad; It just reminds me that past sins are forgiven because of Jesus.   

2.    When I am home, be fully home:  This means that I need to shut off the phone, be done with checking email (there has not been one email that was a life or death matter for me to respond to yet) and social media.  It also means that I only respond to church calls in the evening that are genuine emergencies.  It means that I guard my days off.  I did not check Facebook for a week between Christmas and New Years and the world continued on somehow!  A lot of the time can be wasted in front of the TV or looking at the smartphone. I don’t think I’ll look back on my life and wish I’d spent more time in front of the TV or using my smartphone or doing “ministry” in the evenings or my day off.

3.    Play with my kids one hour a day at minimum: This means getting on the floor and playing cars with Elijah, or having tea with Leah, or chasing Abbey and making her laugh.  I believe that these memories will stick with my kids. It is amazing: I can easily spend three hours watching an NFL game and think nothing of it. I should be able to spend an hour a day playing with my kids and think nothing of it.

4.    Pray specifically and at length for my children: I pray for my children, but often it is for their salvation or just a general blessing.  I want to engage my children and be involved in their lives and one way I can do this is by praying for them more specifically.  This is especially true as they get older into the teenage years. But why not start the habit now while they are 2, 3 and 5 years old.

Again, I confess my shortcomings as a father but thankful for God’s grace and hoping to be less of a disengaged dad in the years ahead.   

Monday, January 2, 2012

3 Favorite books of 2011 and reading for 2012

The three books that were most edifying and enjoyable to read in 2011 were (in order of priority):

1. Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller.  A Keller article I read about his first pastorate in a rural town is one thing that inclined me to look for a smaller, established church to pastor instead of trying to start a new church plant.  All that to say is Keller has a way of getting at the heart and motives--his writings are pastoral in nature.  This is exactly what he does in Counterfeit Gods--he exposes the idols of our hearts and points to the only cure: Christ!  This is the one book that I would recommend Christians read.

2. New Covenant Theology by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel.  This book introduced me to NCT and clarified the priority of Christ and the New Covenant in approaching the Scripture.

3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  This was a very interesting read that made me think more about the factors of successful people and why a "you can be anything you want to be if you set your mind to it" type of mentality can be misleading.  I'm not sure if Gladwell is a Christian, but the book is very interesting if you read it with an understanding of Providence. 

I have to admit, it is nice to read books that I got to pick instead of a seminary Prof. (though most of the book required at SBTS were enjoyable, the sheer volume of reading was always too much for me).

My goals for 2012, Lord willing, is to get through the following: The Gagging of God by D.A. Carson, Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster, Abraham's Four Seeds by John Reisinger, The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, and hopefully a few others along the way.  And finally, so I avoid becoming the stereotypical pastor who has zero athletic ability and awareness, How I Play Golf by Tiger Woods is on my current library loan!