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Monday, February 28, 2011

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies - Week #3 [Ch.5-6]

"Pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins;
it is itself the essence of all sin." (John Stott)

As I read through Chapters 5 and 6,  I began to think about the one area of our lives that causes the most damage to our Christian walk - pride.  Pride prevents us from learning from God.  One must have a lifelong teachable spirit in order to grow spiritually.  Pride also engenders a critical spirit towards others, which leads us into a downward spiral of anger, bitterness and disunity in home and church.  Pride prevents us from truly loving others in the way God desires.  Pride is a universal, life-long battle for the believer.  Even writing about it makes me uncomfortable because I know how pitifully and how often I fail in this area.  But I am encouraged when I recognize God's hand slowly reforming my inner man, my heart.  

C.J. Mahaney writes, "Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him ... Pride takes innumerable forms but has only one end: self-glorification. That's the motive and ultimate purpose of pride - to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.  No wonder God hates pride.  Let that truth sink into your thinking."  Pride is a funny thing ... it's so easy to see in others and so hard to see in ourselves.

The opposite of pride is humility.  If you're not constantly cultivating humility into your life, don't expect to ever find victory over besetting sin.  But how exactly do we go about doing that ... in a humble manner?  David Tripp writes, "My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror.  If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God's Word in front of me.  Hebrews 3:12-13 clearly teaches that personal insight is the product of community.  Since each of us still has sin remaining in us, we will have pockets of spiritual blindness ... The Bible says that we can be spiritually blind and yet think that we can see quite well."  (Proverbs 12:1)

What steps, then, can we take to build humility into our lives?  I propose five ways a believer can develop the mindset of humility:

First, acknowledge the battle.  Know God and know yourself from God's point of view.  If you're not consciously watching out for the sin of pride in your life, you are courting disaster. (1 Cor.10:12)  Having an accurate view of who we are before a holy and righteous God is the first step toward change.  Put off any critical spirit toward others.  It's a hindrance and does not glorify God.  Matthew 7:1 warns against judging to condemnation.  The reason we are so unqualified to condemn other believers is because, unlike God, we are neither omniscient nor omnipresent.  Too often we condemn on the basis of limited knowledge colored by much presupposition and vain imagination.  We put ourselves in God's place.  "Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls..." (Romans 14:4)  That doesn't mean we don't help one another grow more Christ-like by shining the light of God's truth onto sin.  It means we do so in a manner that is edifying, that builds up, rather than in a manner that is critical and tears down.  It means that we do it by using God's truth as the authority and not ourselves.  It means we have the best interests of the individual in mind.  We don't gossip and slander, murmur and complain about their sin to others.

Second, approach God's Word with a humble attitude, ever seeking to understand what God is saying, the main point He is making.  Every time you approach the Bible, consciously put off all of your preconceived notions about what you WANT it to mean and pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate your understanding of what it REALLY means within its context.  Seek the whole counsel of God, don't pick & choose verses out of context to back up you're beliefs.  Be willing to be wrong.  Be willing to be challenged.  Be willing to learn.  Have a "teachable spirit" no matter how old you are or how long you have been walking in Christ.  We all need to be both disciples and disciplers. 

Third, place yourself in the company of believers who will lovingly encourage you to godliness, rather than reinforce your sin.  Welcome correction from others.  It hurts.  It stings.  It's painful.  But it helps us grow. Self-defensive maneuvers only hinder our spiritual growth and joy in the Lord.  [If you're reading this and someone else pops into your mind ... go back to Point One.]

Fourth, confess your sin. (Ps.32:5)  Regularly examine yourself, be sensitive to your own sin and confess it to God.  If your sin impacts another, confess it to that person and seek their forgiveness.  Let awareness of your own sin become a natural response in your life.  When the jab of recognition is most painful, take it to God for forgiveness and press on.  (1 John 1:9)  [If you're reading this and someone else pops into your mind ... go back to Point One]

And finally, be patient - with yourself and with others.  Pride is the essence of our indwelling sin nature.  There is just so much pride and self-promoting tendency in our hearts.  God will reveal more and more of it to us as we obediently move forward in our Christian walk.  Let us encourage one another toward godliness. (1 Tim.4:8)  Let us hunger and thirst after righteousness. (Mt.5:6)  Let us be the light God wants us to be in this dark world. (Phil.2:14-15)  Constantly dealing with our own pride underlies any true service to the Lord.  "And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand..." (1 Peter 5:6)

[Based upon the book Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Week #1 here; Week #2 here; Week #4 here]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Clear View of God In the Midst of Trials

Elyse Fitzpatrick, well-known nouthetic counselor & author, recently wrote about "cascading trials." That is, those times believers experience overlapping trials all within a short period of time. In such circumstances, it can become easy to lose your eternal perspective and forget the character of God. May this reminder of God's love and faithfulness to His people help keep you focused upon Him and strengthen you during such times. May you not be deceived concerning God's love and care for you, the one spiritually united to Christ.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.  (James 1:16-18)
Fitzpatrick writes...
"When we face loss, death, change, or concern about future provision, we need a clear vision of the Lord who never changes his disposition toward us. He has chosen to bless us with salvation, and he takes pleasure in us. He is good, and his disposition toward us is one of showering us with good gifts.

James speaks powerfully: Don’t be deceived! The strength that you need to walk faithfully through a torrential downpour comes from remembering how he has covenanted to love you and sustain you, no matter what. The ability to fight against the unbelief in my own heart is fueled by remembering his love and determination to bless me. Am I in a cascade of trial? Yes. But there is another truth here: I am standing under a cascade of good gifts from a Father who never changes, no matter how I doubt, and who loved me enough to save my soul.

What do I need to remember when I’m under that cascade of trial? Simply this: He didn’t choose me because my faith was so strong or my record meritorious. He won’t continue to love me because I believe so perfectly. He loves me because he has chosen to love me in his Son, and nothing ever changes that. Yes, we suffer, sometimes grievously. But that cascade of trial is overwhelmed by a deluge of good and perfect gifts coming down from a faithful Father who loves us, no matter what."

[Elyse Fitzpatrick's entire post may be viewed here under February 20th.]

Monday, February 21, 2011

Holiness: The Heart God Purifies - Week #2 [Ch.3-4]

Before coming to the Lord, I can still recall my utter blindness to spiritual truth.  It wasn't just a matter of lacking information.  The Bible was readily available to me, but I had no sincere interest in wanting to understand it.  God sent people to explain the gospel to me, but I could not get past the idea that I was a sinner.  That just stuck in my throat and angered me.  My problem, of course, was that I couldn't see God for who He really is, nor could I see my precarious position before Him.  I certainly had ideas about who God was, but they were influenced more by watching movies and by my own ideas of who I wanted God to be than by His revelation of Himself in Scripture.  But God, in His mercy, placed me in the hearing of Scripture and one night... BAM!!... the piercing flood light of God's Word reached into my heart and I SAW my situation before a holy God who had created me, who sustained my every breath, who knew me intimately, who loved me while I was yet a sinner by providing a way for me to be forgiven & reconciled with Him, and who was calling me to follow Him!  I came to realize the "problem" with my view of sin was my "horizontal" gaze.  I was comparing myself to everyone around me, when God wanted me to look "vertically" and compare myself in the light of His righteousness, so that I might become aware of my own spiritual bankruptcy.

The story of David's sin with Bathsheba provides a clear picture.  When you read through 2 Samuel 11-12, you are struck by David's heinous sin against both Uriah and Bathsheba.  Plainly put, David forced Bathsheba into sin, stole her away from her husband Uriah and had his loyal soldier murdered in an attempt to hide his own sin.  Yet when God used the Prophet Nathan to bring David to repentance and David wrote about the experience in Psalm 51, he perfectly understood that ultimately his sin was against God.  "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment." (Psalm 51:4)  This is precisely what DeMoss points out in Chapter 3, "The Enemy of Holiness."  All sin is ultimately against a holy God.  The more clearly we see that, the better we understand the true nature of sin and the more we will abhor it.

J.C. Ryle wrote, "A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it. He knows his own heart is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation.  Who shall dare to talk of strength when David can fall?  Few Christians are ever too watchful and too particular about this point."  What a clear word picture... our hearts are like "tinder", susceptible to the "sparks of temptation."  We need to remember our vulnerability.  The Apostle Paul warned, "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (1Cor.10:12)

The Bible is very clear - not only is sin to be put off/mortified, but righteousness is to take its place.  The balanced Christian life has one eye on removing and avoiding sin and the other eye on pursuing righteousness. The two work hand-in-hand.  Jesus said those blessed by God "hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Mt.5:6)   DeMoss introduces Chapter 4 with a quote from H.A. Ironside, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."  I've heard believers express shock, amazement, even discouragement that the struggle against sin requires such effort.  There is often the idea that the Christian life should be easier, that as we progress in our spiritual walk we should struggle less.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  You need only observe Scripture.  "Put on the entire armor of God..." so you may do daily battle with sin! (Eph.6:11-13)   "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood ...  strive/pursue/make every be holy." (Heb.12:4, 14)

The battle against the flesh, the indwelling sin nature, will last until we're home with the Lord.  Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection removed us from bondage to our sin nature (Rom.6:6), but in this life we will struggle against it (Rom.7:18-25) and through Christ have been given the ability to choose righteousness. The believer has spiritual resources to fight against "the flesh", but it requires putting on ALL of God's armor and engaging in battle daily.  Particular sins might be dealt with, but God will continue to shine His light onto our hearts and progressively reveal other areas that need addressing.  This process of sanctification, making us in experience what we are in position, continues until we're in glory.  Rather than becoming discouraged about fighting sin, we need to build up one another in God's truth, helping each other suit up for the battle.

That's one of the reasons God places each of us in a local body of believers to grow among.  We complement one another in spiritual gifts and are given opportunities to encourage one another in righteousness, so that together we may do the work of the ministry (Eph.4:11-14).  Take advantage of sitting under the biblical teaching in your local church - attend Sunday services, morning & night, go to Bible studies, take Bible Institute classes whenever they are offered. Band together with like-minded believers to serve in ministry together.   And spend consistent, daily time in prayer. Find prayer partners and participate in corporate prayer.  [Did you know that Spurgeon had a group of women praying in the basement of the church during every one of his sermons?  No wonder his messages were so powerful!]

Expose yourself daily to the truth of God's Word (in context!!).  Purposefully look for ways to apply it in your life with the empowering help of the indwelling HS.  There's a reason the Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race and  a battle.  Those metaphors imply effort, striving, patience, obedience, endurance and perseverance.  As Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain."  (Phil.2:12-16)

[Based upon the book Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Week #1 (Chapters 1-2) here; Week #3 (Chapters 5-6) here]

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Healthy Christian: Learning to Listen to God

I've found a new little book I want to hand out to everyone! I've mentioned Thabiti Anyabwile's recent book, What Is A Healthy Church Member? before. What a gem of a little book! If the local church is to be what God wants it to be, the individuals sitting in the pews need to have a clear idea of what God expects of them as individuals. Here's one element to start working on when you attend church this Sunday - "Learn to Be an Expositional Listener". Excerpted from this chapter ...

Expositional preaching uses the main point of the Bible passage, in its context, as the main point of the sermon. "If churches are to be healthy, then pastors and teachers must be committed to discovering the meaning of Scripture and allowing that meaning to drive the agenda with their congregations. So too should the Christian's listening agenda be driven by the meaning of Scripture. When we listen to the preaching of the Word, we should not listen primarily for "practical how-to advice," nor should we listen for messages that bolster our self-esteem or that rouse us to political and social causes. As members of Christian churches we should listen primarily for the voice and message of God as revealed in his Word. Expositional listening is listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives.

Expositional listening benefits us by cultivating a hunger for God's Word. We grow accustomed to listening to God. His Word, his voice, becomes sweet to us (Ps.119:103-104) and as it does we are better able to push to the background the many voices that rival God's voice for control over our lives.

It helps us to focus on God's will and to follow him. Our agenda becomes secondary. God's agenda for his people takes center stage, reorders our priorities, and directs us in the course that most honors him. (John 10:27)

It protects the gospel and our lives from corruption. The failure to listen expositionally has disastrous effects. False teachers enter the church and hinder the gospel. Ultimately, the truth is displaced by myths and falsehoods. (Jude 1:3; 1Tim.3:15)

It encourages faithful pastors. Those men who serve faithfully in the minstry of the Word are worthy of double honor (1Tim.5:17). As church members, we can care for our pastors and teachers and help to prevent unnecessary discouragement and fatigue by cultivating the habit of expositional listening.

It benefits the gathered congregation. Repeatedly, the NT writers exhort local churches to be unified - to be of one mind. (1Cor.1:10; 1Pet.3:8) As we gather together in our local churches and give ourselves to hearing the voice of God through his preached Word, we're shaped into one body. We are united in understanding and purpose. And that unity testifies to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 17:21).  But if we listen with our own interest and agendas in mind, if we develop "private interpretations" and idiosyncratic views, we risk shattering that unity, provoking disputes over doubtful matters, and weakening our corporate gospel."

Pastor Anyabwile gives Six Practical Steps you can take to become an "expositional listener":

1. Meditate On the Sermon Passage During Your Quiet Time. Read through the text ahead of time. Either ask the pastor what passage he intends to preach the next week or go to the next verses in the Book he's preaching his way through. "Outline the text in your own daily devotions and use it to inform your prayer life. Learning to outline Scripture is a wonderful way of digging out and exposing the meaning of a passage. You can then use your outline as a listening aid; compare it to the preacher's outline for new insights you missed in your own study."

2. Invest in a Good Set of Commentaries  "Study the Bible with John Calvin or Martin Lloyd-Jones by purchasing the commentaries on the books of the Bible as you read and study through them.. Let these scholars and pastors help you hear God's Word with a clear ear and discover its rich meaning. The Bible Speaks Today commentary series is an excellent starting place for those wanting to build a library of good commentaries."

3. Talk and Pray with Friends About the Sermon After Church  "Instead of rushing off after the service is over, or talking about the latest news, develop the habit of talking about the sermon with people after church. Start spiritual conversations by asking, "How did the Scripture challenge or speak to you today?" Or, "What about God's character most surprised or encouraged you?" Encourage others by sharing things you learned about God and his Word during the sermon. Make particular note of how your thinking has changed because of the meaning of Scripture itself. And pray with others that God would keep the congregation from becoming "dull of hearing" and that he would bless the congregation with an increasingly strong desire for the "solid food' of his Word (Isa.6:9-10; Heb.5:11-14)."

4. Listen To and Act On the Sermon Throughout the Week  "We  can cultivate the habit of expositional listening by listening to the sermon throughout the week and then acting upon it. Don't let the Sunday sermon become a one-time event that fades from memory as soon as it is over (James 1:22-25). Choose one or two particular applications from the Scripture and prayerfully put them into practice over the coming week." Listen to the audio ministry on your church's website. "Take advantage of these opportunities to feed your soul with the click of a mouse." Review the sermon in your family devotions that week. [At my daughter's church, the sermon is the subject of the Home Study that week.]

5. Develop the Habit of Addressing Any Questions About the Text Itself  "Jonathan Edwards resolved that he would never let a day end before he had answered any questions that troubled him or sprang to mind while he was studying the Scripture. How healthy would our churches be if members dedicated themselves to studying the Scripture with that kind of intentional effort and resolve? Follow up with your pastors, elders or other teachers in the church about questions triggered by the text. Moreover, don't be passive in your private study; seek answers by searching the Scripture yourself. But don't forget the pastor has likely spent more time than most in thinking about that passage and is there to feed you God's Word. Follow up the sermons with questions and comments that would be an encouragement to your pastor and a blessing to your soul."

6. Cultivate Humility  "As you dig into God's Word, listening for his voice, you will no doubt begin to grow and discover many wonderful treasures. But as you grow, do not become a "professional sermon listener" who is always hearing but never learning. Mortify any tendencies toward pride, the condemnation of others and critical nit-picking. Instead, seek to meet Jesus each time you come to the Scripture; gather from the Word fuel for all-of-life worship."

[May that little taste make you interested enough to read the entire book! That's just one area covered! You will mature in your Christian walk by learning to focus on and take heed to God's ideas. Don't make me buy you a copy!]

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Holiness: The Heart God Purifies" - Week #1 [Ch.1-2]

"Oh, God,
show me more of Your holiness.
Show me more of my sinfulness.
Help me to hate sin and to love righteousness as You do.
Grant me a deeper conviction of sin
and a more thorough spirit of repentance.
And make me holy as You are holy."

Thus begins Nancy Leigh DeMoss' book on holiness.  Reading through this book gives each of us an excellent opportunity to honestly examine ourselves. (1Cor.11:28; 2Cor.13:5)  Our sin nature makes us naturally good at examining others, but few are consistently good at pointing their finger where God wants it to be ... evaluating ourselves in light of who God is, what He HAS done and what He IS doing in our life.  He demanded holiness in the lives of His people Israel, those whom He had redeemed from bondage in Egypt (Lev.11:45) and He demands the same of Christians, those whom He has redeemed from bondage to sin (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  By the end of this book, may we realize with DeMoss that "holiness and sin both matter"- more than we can imagine.  They matter to God, and the more we comprehend their true nature, the more they will matter to us."  For one who is spiritually united with Christ, to be holy is "to be wholly satisfied with Christ ... to reflect the beauty and the splendor of our holy Lord in this dark world."

The realization that holiness and true joy are inseparably bound to each other provides powerful motivation for the believer.  The pleasures of sin are fleeting (Heb.11:25).  Sin is deceitful.  IT is the real burden in life, yet it seeks to promote itself as something attractive (Gen.3:1-5).  J.C. Ryle defines sin as, "doing, saying, thinking or imagining anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God. ... Men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin is not quite so sinful as God says it is, and that they are not so bad as they really are. ... Sin rarely seems sin at first beginnings."

"True holiness is cultivated in the context of a relationship with God."  But God doesn't stop with the demand that His people be holy, set apart TO Him and FOR Him, He also empowers them to become progressively holy in practice through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  And He provides the means, the graces, by which the Holy Spirit conforms each believer to the image of His beloved Son (Romans 8:29).  Our appropriation of these graces (e.g. knowing & obeying His Word, prayer, sitting under godly preaching & teaching, meeting together to encourage one another to godliness) affects the rate of our individual spiritual growth.  Having a heart tender to the commands of God, a "soft heart" sensitive to Him, one that is quick to repent, quick to forsake sin, quick to obey, also impacts the rate of our spiritual growth.  Holiness starts with our heart attitude, then manifests itself in our actions.  Just like sin, holiness is rooted in the heart.  Any attempt to change our outer actions without first changing our inner heart attitude is not holiness at all and is doomed to failure, nor does it bring any pleasure to God. One need only observe Christ's attitude towards the scribes and Pharisees.  

"True holiness starts on the inside - with our thoughts, attitudes, values and motives - those innermost parts of our hearts that only God can see."  I would add to that list our "inward expectations".  An honest evaluation to make sure our expectations in life are, in fact, biblical, goes far towards helping us to "be renewed in the spirit of your mind and to put on the new man who has been created in God's image — in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth." (Eph.4:22-24)

My prayer for all of us, as we read through this book, would be that we would develop an honest hunger for holiness, that we would appropriate the God-given means/graces to reject anything less and that each of us would respond in humility of mind, which would allow us to honestly evaluate ourselves in the light of God's truth. May our motivation for doing so be a sincere and overwhelming desire to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind.

[Based upon the book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Week #2 (Chapters 3&4) may be found here. Related Post: Expectations]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Do You Really Know What Biblical Love Is?

It can be easy to mistake a cultural view of love with the Biblical view of love. Doing so can lead us astray in our thinking and subsequently in our actions. J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) writes about what biblical love is and what it is not in his book Walking With God. Hopefully his thoughts will help you develop a God-honoring biblical view of Christian love. Don't settle for a cheap imitation.

Love is not just giving to the poor. Paul says plainly that someone may 'bestow all his goods to feed the poor' (1 Corinthians 13:3) and not have love. Love does not mean that we never condemn anybody's behavior. Biblical love does not mean we are to ignore sin or to speak well of immorality. Biblical love does not mean that we should never disapprove of anyone's religious opinions. True love says, 'Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)

Let us consider what love is. First, it is love to God. Whoever has this love wants to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Secondly, it is love to man. Biblical love will show in a Christian's actions, making him ready to do good to everyone, without looking for any reward. It will show itself in willingness to bear evil. It will make him patient when provoked, forgiving, meek and humble. He will often deny himself for the sake of peace and will be more interested in promoting peace than in securing his own rights. True love never envies, and never rejoices in people's troubles.

The perfect pattern of this love is found in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was hated, persecuted and criticized, but he endured patiently. He was always kind and patient to everyone. Yet he exposed wickedness and rebuked those who sinned. He denounced false doctrine and false practices. He spoke as freely of hell as of heaven. He showed that perfect love does not approve of everybody's life or opinions, and that it is possible to condemn evil and still be full of love. This, then, is what true Christian love is.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Raising Men

On his blog today, Tim Challies commented on a phenomenon I have also noticed ... one I was probably guilty of perpetuating a time or two! If you drive around neighborhoods on a snowy day, you'll notice a lot of Moms shoveling driveways. Many of those households have able bodied older boys, teens and young adult men ... yet it is the mom who is out there shoveling. It made me think about the need to raise children intentionally. I certainly tried to do that as our kids were growing up, but know there were times I chose expediency over character building. I wish I had thought more about long-range consequences. We have become a culture of delayed childhood. Particularly as Christians we need to be careful we don't perpetuate that viewpoint. We're raising our kids to be adults ... not children. That means we have to start building responsibility into their lives as their maturity level allows. The time to begin paying attention to that is now ... not when they are nearly grown and about to leave home.

These days I watch my kids raise their children and I notice how much more they think about parenting. Nehemiah recently shoveled the landlady's walkway [and sidewalk and started in on the neighbor's walkway ;)] when the snow wasn't too deep and Micah goes out to help his Dad whenever he shovels. They are little guys and may not be accomplishing huge amounts, but they are learning to take responsibility and to look for ways to serve others. That's a good thing. Challies writes...

"I remember being a rebellious, listless teenager. I remember how little I wanted to do much of anything for anyone else. I remember our elderly next-door neighbor had a heart attack and was unable to do any strenuous labor. We had a good snowfall one day and I was enjoying the day in the refuge of my basement bedroom, lying across my bed reading a book and listening to some music. My father came down and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to go upstairs, get my winter gear on and get outside to shovel the neighbor’s driveway. He gave me a figurative (and perhaps literal—my memory is a little hazy) kick in the rear-end and sent me on my way. I went outside and there was my neighbor’s wife, shoveling the drive. I pitched in and soon had it cleared. The lesson has stuck.

Dad had high expectations of me, but reasonable, biblical ones. He wanted me to be active and proactive in service to others; he wanted me to be looking for opportunities to serve and for opportunities to serve as a man serves; he wanted me to use my growing strength to serve other people.

I have a boy of my own now and I can see that some of what was in me is in him. He is a good kid, a kind soul. Yet he is sometimes as reluctant to serve as I was when I was young. I am seeking to teach him that he is to use his strength, his ability to serve others and especially to serve those who are weaker or less able than he is. It will not be long before my son is stronger than my wife. Already when they goof around together I can see that she does not have a whole lot on him. What becomes of a mom when she has children who are bigger than she is, stronger than she is, and yet with so little maturity, so little restraint? ...

This is a lesson a father [and mother!] needs to pass to his son. It’s a lesson that no one has taught to so many of the boys who live around me. A little while ago I saw a mother struggling with a load of groceries while her boys pushed past one another and past her to get into the house. I stopped them and told them to get back to the car to help their mother. They looked at me blankly and walked into their house, mumbling an excuse. Mom struggled down the walkway she had shoveled with the groceries she was forced to carry ... There was no one to give these boys the good, swift kick to the posterior that would get them acting like men."

Read the entire blog here.