Why We Actively Support a Local “Crisis Pregnancy Center”

Each Spring since my family and I arrived in Bellingham for me to be the Pastor of Family Ministries at Immanuel Bible Church, we have joyfully participated in the Whatcom County Pregnancy Center Walk for Life. There are many reasons to share about why we do this, but let me explain a few:

1) God cares about every life.   “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb…Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) Every time that God talks about the unborn or children in the Bible, it is positive. God is actively and personally involved in the unborn’s life—and the LORD calls them babies even before they are born (Luke 1:43-44, Jer. 1:5, Job 31:15, Is. 44:2, Job 10:8-12).

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The 2013 Walk for Life–with a few friends from our church!

2) Doing the Walk for Life is good for my kids. Our children are too young to understand abortion, but when we go to the Walk for Life and explain that we are there to help mommies be able to help their babies live, they understand that it is important. They also understand that our faith should not just be something we talk about, but something we try to act on as much as we can. We pray together before and after for the babies and their parents, and that they would find the hope of Jesus.

3) My kids being present at the Walk for Life is good for others. Whether they are people on the street that see us walking, or the single elderly man in our church who comes out to support the WCPC every year, having kids present at the Walk for Life is a reminder of why we are doing it. These are kids who were not aborted. There are children who should be in our community who are not because of abortion. In fact, the equivalent of this year’s graduating classes at both Bellingham High School and Sehome High School are surgically aborted every year just in our county—415 who would have graduated in the year 2033.

My wife Melanie and I actively support the work of WCPC because we care about what God cares about. After almost a decade serving in Youth and Family Ministry, we have known teenagers who lived with the regret of abortion and needed to understand God’s grace, and others who needed to understand God’s truth and grace as they were pregnant and needing encouragement to have their baby. The WCPC is a place where teens and women in our community that we would never have contact with on our own can go and hear both truth and grace.

Roe v. Wade happened six years before I was born. As Christians, we cannot let abortion become “white noise” to us simply because it has “always” been there. It is always the time to stand together for life. If a woman hears the Gospel for the first time in her moment of crisis and also decides to not abort because we raised pledges and arrived before 9am on a Saturday with our children in tow, then praise God! What a small sacrifice for a life and eternity-changing ministry.

As citizens of only four countries in the world that allow abortion for any reason after viability (North Korea, China, Canada and the U.S.), and as Christians, we must do something. In addition to the Walk for Life, Melanie has helped with a Baby Shower that our church hosted, attended the WCPC Annual Dinner, and I recently brought our High School Ministry to pray in front of Planned Parenthood and then pray in front of WCPC after a Bible study on what God thinks about the unborn. At this stage in our lives, we can’t personally be there to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the women and men who come into those doors scared and looking for answers. But we can support those who are the hands and feet of Christ there on a daily basis! And sometimes that is as simple as going for a walk.

*This article will appear in the WCPC April 2015 Newsletter.

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Family Devotions Are Not New

John Newton, one of my heroes of the faith, wrote the hymn Amazing Grace in 1779.  He also wrote many personal letters that we can learn from, including one answering a question about “Family Worship.”  Family Devotions, time set aside as a family to read the Bible and pray together (and sometimes maybe even sing), is nothing new because the call to raise our families in the Lord is not new.family devotions

Parents were seen as the primary disciplers of their children before Deuteronomy 6:7 was given to the people of Israel, and before the Apostle Paul instructed parents to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” in Ephesians 6:4.  Newton explains:

I am afraid I shall not answer your expectations with regard to the particulars of your inquiry, concerning the most proper method of conducting family worship. The circumstances of families are so various, that no determinate rules can be laid down: nor has the word of God prescribed any; because, being of universal obligation, it is wisely and graciously accommodated to suit the different situations of his people. You must, therefore, as to circumstantials, judge for yourself. You will do well to pursue such a method as you shall find most convenient to yourself and family, without scrupulously binding yourself, when the Scripture has left you free…

…He requires us to acknowledge him in our families, for our own sakes; not because he has need of our poor services, but because we have need of his blessing, and without the influence of his grace (which is promised to all who seek it) are sure to be unhappy in ourselves…

…For it being every believer’s duty to worship God in his family, his promise may be depended upon, to give them a sufficiency in all things, for those services which he requires of them.

Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power. I do not say, that, by honouring God in your house, you will wholly escape a share in the trials incident to the present uncertain state of things. A measure of such trials will be necessary for the exercise and manifestation of your graces, to give you a more convincing proof of the truth and sweetness of the promises made to a time of affliction, to mortify the body of sin, and to wean you more effectually from the world. But this I will confidently say, that the Lord will both honour and comfort those who thus honour him.

I especially appreciate how Newton points out that no matter how inadequate you feel to lead Family Devotions, God has already given you what you need.  Also, there is no one set method–and it will change in your own family over time.  But the basics of being reminded of something from the Bible together as a family in your home, and praying together, is timeless.  If you don’t already have a pattern, why don’t you start with one night a week after dinner–tonight!

Source: Newton, J., Richard Cecil. (1824). The works of the Rev. John Newton (Vol. 1, p. 153). London: Hamilton, Adams & Co.

A Wonderful Tension: The Importance of Fathers and the Supremacy of Christ

As I think about Father’s Day approaching, I can easily think of areas in my parenting that I need refocus in.  Voddie Baucham Jr. helped me put my fatherhood in perspective this morning:

The role of men in their families is so important that God picture21honored it by conferring upon us his own title, Father.  We’re the governors and guides of our families, and the way we lead has far-reaching implications…I’ve watched families crumble under the weight of paternal neglect…I’ve watched households transform quickly as fathers take the helm and begin to lead and disciple their wives and children.  I’ve seen marriages healed as husbands begin to take seriously their duty to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25) and to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

The role of fathers in the family can hardly be overstated.  However, the supremacy of Christ is our fuel, our goal, and our comfort in this great duty.  Because of the power of the gospel and the past and present work of Christ, we can have strength to lead our families today, the vision for where we need to be leading our families, and the reality of forgiveness and help for where we have failed and when we will fail.  I need Jesus.  My family needs Jesus.  Baucham continues:

…The family is not the gospel; nor is the family as important as the gospel.  The family is a delivery mechanism for the gospel.

In Ephesians 5 and 6 the role of fathers loving their wives and discipling their children, the responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands, and the duties of parents to their children are all couched in terms that are unmistakable in their gospel-centeredness.  This is all about “Christ and the church” (5:32)…

…In the end, I want you to see Jesus.  I want you to see him in a way that drives you to pursue him personally and to keep him before your wife and children in a way that causes them to seek him as well.  In short, I want you to shepherd your family in the direction of the Good Shepherd.
(From Family Shepherds, pp. 11-14)

How Do I Live Out Radical Discipleship with a Wife and 3 Kids?

radical pictureOur Pastor has been preaching on Mark 8:34-38 over the last two Sundays, and it sounds so radical to our comfortable American Christian ears.  I have had plenty of time to think through what the implications of Jesus’ words are for my life, and to realize that Jesus’ “radical” call to discipleship may not be so radical after all, but rather simply counter-cultural.  So, how do I live out radical discipleship with a wife and 3 kids?

Listen to what Christ calls us all to:  “And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Christ bids me come and die.  This is not new.  “I am crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)  It won’t always be flashy.  It might be putting my 19 month old daughter to bed and singing “Jesus Loves Me” with her.  It might be talking with my 5 year old about Jesus and why He died for us as we read a Bible bed time story.  It might be letting my 5 month old boy know that He is a blessing and loved by changing his diaper with joy.  It might be putting on a towel and pulling out a basin and serving my wife when I get home from a long day at work instead of serving myself, however that looks at any point in our marriage.  This is impossible in my flesh, but easy in the Spirit.

I may not be a foreign missionary.  I may not be a martyr.  I may or may not ever be put in jail for preaching the Gospel.  I may even own a home someday.  But I can still be a radical disciple for Jesus Christ.  If my life is poured out for Christ, if my family knows that I love God, love them, and love our neighbors and the nations more than I love myself, that is radical discipleship.  I do this so imperfectly, but  I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Jesus, draw me nearer to the cross.  Help me to pour out myself and my family in losing our lives for Your sake and the Gospel’s.

Biblical Parenting Books

There is a plethora of resources available to Christian parents today, which is both a blessing and a problem.  How do you know which are the most biblical and which may steer you in the wrong direction?  After all, you want to be right on track with what the Bible says about parenting!  You don’t want to realize that you missed the target when your children are leaving the house, but you want to “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)  I encourage you to make it your goal to read at least one of these books this fall!  Here are my current Top 10 Biblical Parenting Books…

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp has become a classic biblical parenting book.  If you are only going to read one parenting book this year, or if you have never read this, I can’t urge you more strongly to start with this one.  There is also an excellent Study Guide available that really expands upon the book in a simple manner, written by Tedd Tripp 10 years after the original publication, and will help you to practically work through some of the topics in your own family.

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman is my wife’s favorite parenting book.  It takes the biblical principles in Shepherding a Child’s Heart and makes them extremely tangible.  My favorite quote is from the Foreword, “I’ve heard many ‘experts’ proclaim that the Bible has very little to say about raising children.  Perhaps they have spent too much time earning their degrees and too little time learning the Scriptures.  God’s Word has plenty to say to parents if we diligently read it, apply it, and reap its fruits.” (pp. 16-17)

If you are looking for a “theology” of Christian parenting, this is your book: What the Bible Says About Parenting.  John MacArthur faithfully and clearly explains the Scriptures that God has given us regarding parenting.  Don’t let “theology of Christian parenting” turn you away though–in my opinion, this is one of John MacArthur’s best books.  He is practical and passionate when he talks about the family and raising children God’s way, and it shows in his own family.

Your Family God’s Way by Wayne Mack.  If you are having communication struggles within your family, whether in your marriage, with your children, or teens, this is the book for you.  The subtitle, “Developing & Sustaining Relationships in the Home” belies that it deals with more, but the way that Wayne Mack practically explains the biblical principles of communication is worth this book’s weight in gold.

If you are struggling with being pessimistic about your family or your role as a parent, Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes is biblically joyful and positive.  It is chock full of ideas for enjoying your family, learning and growing together, and living for the Lord.  It is not as much of a parenting manual as some of the other books, but I highly recommend it if you need to move beyond a foundation, or if you need hope or ideas.

See my earlier blog post regarding The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle.  It is available in a free download as a PDF here!  It is an excellent booklet and is only 38 pages.  The only caution I give is that Ryle sees Proverbs 22:6 as an absolute promise from God rather than as a divinely inspired proverb that explains how things generally work.  If it were a promise, however, there would be no faithful parents with unfaithful children.  It is well worth reading though and it will be helpful with your parenting.

The title of Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley intrigued me enough to get it on my bookshelf.  I am confident commending it heartily as my Pastor, Mike Pohlman, recommends it.  See his blog post here.  Farley says in his Introduction, “In my experience, the most effective parents have a clear grasp of the cross and its implications for daily life.”

The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family by Martha Peace and Stuart Scott is written by the same author  that I have trusted enough (Scott) to read The Exemplary Husband three times!  In an interview about this book Scott remarked that it is written from a “different yet biblical perspective: God’s and the parent’s faithfulness rather than the ‘product’ or the outcome.”

In Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, Paul David Tripp hopefully titles the first chapter, “Age of Opportunity or Season for Survival?”  Certainly it is the former.  Ken Sande explains that this book “…provides a superb road map for raising teenage children…[and] experiencing with them the challenges, victories, and joys of our journey to maturity in Christ.”

Growing Up Christian by Karl Graustein is not a parenting book.  It is actually written to teens who have grown up in the church and subtitled, “Have you taken ownership of your relationship with God?”  It is well written and a book that would be perfect for a parent of a teenager to read simultaneously with their teen and discuss over coffee or a meal together.  It would be a great way to shepherd your child’s [teen’s] heart!

A Reminder as School Begins…The Husband and Father’s Responsibilities: A Quote from Jonathan Edwards

As school is now in full swing, I want to share this Jonathan Edwards quote that is a timely thought on a husband’s and father’s responsibilities (moms, don’t miss the second part of the quote regarding raising your children!).

…the person in your house that claims your first and nearest attention, is, undoubtedly, your wife; seeing you are to love her, even as Christ hath loved the Church. . . . Next to your wife are your children; immortal spirits whom God hath, for a time, entrusted to your care, that you may train them up in all holiness, and fit them for the enjoyment of God in eternity. This is a glorious and important trust; seeing one soul is of more value than all the world beside. Every child, therefore, you are to watch over with the utmost care, that, when you are called to give an account of each to the Father of spirits, you may give your accounts with joy and not with grief.
Jonathan Edwards

[HT: Family Ministry Today]

I recently met a man at a car wash who saw my young children in my car and told me, “Love your wife.  Don’t forget to love your wife.  It is best for your children, best for her, and best for you.”  This was a 2-minute interaction that we had, but with tears in his eyes he shared that he lost his influence with his children as well as most of his monthly paycheck because he did not love his wife.  Both Jonathan Edwards (knowingly) and the man at the car wash (unknowingly) are echoing the theme of Ephesians 5:25 & 6:4.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Calling All Husbands

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“Is marriage really hard?” the young man asked me with big eyes when he found out I had been married for over 8 years.  He was engaged and had friends telling him to not get married because it was too hard.  This has played out not once but 3 times, and not in a pastor’s office but at my register in the cell phone store I work at.  The fact that a man would ask a stranger selling him a phone about marriage shows me how much some men want to make marriage work even though the culture tells them it won’t.

As a Christian, God has laid out clear principles in His Word that He expects you to live out in your own marriage. It’s not just a matter of making your marriage work or making it better, but also a matter of obedience. Of course, when you follow God’s commands, then you invite God’s blessing on your marriage as well. These are all areas that I have had to change and grow a lot in over the last several years in particular. I always see a new way to apply these principles in my marriage now every time that I consider them. Just like you, I have further to go and I am excited for what God has for my marriage as I continue to love, lead, and learn my wife more like Christ loves the church. There are other biblical roles of a husband such as provider (1 Tim. 5:8) and protector, but for now this should be enough to evaluate in your own life and marriage.

1) Lover (Eph. 5:25-33). As a husband, you are called to love your wife in a deeper and more unconditional way than you ever thought possible…as Christ loves the church. This is a life-long pursuit of pursuing the Lord and your wife as you learn to live out the Gospel in your marriage. What are some of the ways that Christ loves the church?

  • He loves her unconditionally.
  • He died for her…there is nothing that God can call you to do for your wife that is too much!
  • He forgives her sin.
  • He covers her sin (He doesn’t hold a grudge).
  • He’s her advocate.
  • He protects her.
  • He provides for her needs.
  • He knows her needs, her strengths, her weaknesses, and He acts on her behalf.
  • He sanctifies her.
  • He has time for her.
  • He understands her–He was incarnational (even as God He experienced what man experiences daily, and now He can sympathize with our weaknesses).

2) Leader (Eph. 5:22-23).  Have you ever ridden a tandem bike?  You both pedal but only one can direct the bike by using the handle bars. You are both putting out energy and working together, but one has to take the responsibility for choosing the path that the bike will head down. If you are a husband, God has put you at the handle bars: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…” (Eph. 5:22a). Have you ever thought of what it would be like to be under your leadership within your marriage relationship? As husbands, we will answer to God for how we have led our wives.
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3) Learner (1 Peter 3:7). One of the exciting aspects of marriage is learning our wives for the rest of our lives. In fact, God says that if you don’t live with her in an understanding way and show her honor, then your prayers will be hindered. Marriage is dynamic. You are both constantly changing. Ask God to help you understand how to serve your wife today. What would bring her joy (even something as simple as doing the dishes because she is especially tired tonight)? What is a special way you can encourage her in her walk with the Lord? God says that she is a “weaker vessel,” but as husbands we often treat our wives as Tupperware rather than as a rare vase that is worth millions.

Remember, you can live out these things as a husband, which brings God glory, is best for your wife, and is best for you (Eph. 5:28-31). But you must be saved and walking with the Lord to be able to do this, by the power of the Holy Spirit changing you (Eph. 5:18).

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I did give an answer to the question, “Is marriage really hard?” I told them with a huge smile, “It is, but it is more than worth it.” Praise God that He has not left us wondering what our job as a husband is. He has given us both the commands and the resources to be able to love, lead, and learn our wives with joy.