How Can I Know The Will Of God?

One of the most frequent questions a Christian can ask themselves is: What is the will of God in this situation?

We have all been there many times. Over the years, I have read several books and talked with numerous mentors about finding the answer to this question in many particular situations. Whether you are thinking about going to a certain school, taking a job, dating/marrying someone, moving to a certain city, or whatever else, this topic is for you. As I write this, I will most likely write as if I am counseling someone who is choosing a certain job or school since that is what I find myself doing most in this area. Nevertheless, you can insert yourself and your situation into all of these. Without any more delay, these are some of the “rules” that I have accumulated and what I pass on to others.

  1. Are you holding back anything from God?
    This first searching question has more to do with our living in holiness towards God (1 Pet. 1:16). If we are habitually stiff-arming God from an area in our lives then we need to first repent before we can have a clearer answer to His will. Our sinful desires can certainly lead us astray. Just because that certain job looks attractive, the pay is great, and the city is trending doesn’t mean you should take that job. For all we know, it could just be another way to idolize our job performance rather than grow in godliness. This means that our first reflection should be to look at our lives. To be sure, we wake up every day in a Romans 7 struggle against sin. We will not be perfect until Glory but we can check our lives to see if we are habitually living a godless life in certain areas.

  2. Do you have the opportunity?
    Just because I have a passion for something and even some general skill in that same area doesn’t mean I have opportunity to do it (which is totally contrary to most of the worldly wisdom today). Part of God’s will is when He opens up and closes doors for us (Col. 4:3). If an opportunity is closed then we can be sure (and we must be patient!) that it’s not God’s will for us right now. We need to repent of the “giraffe syndrome” where we constantly are holding our heads high looking for greener grass. We certainly can pray for God to open up the opportunity if we do have the passion and the ability for such a opportunity but if the door is not open yet then we must remain patient. For all we know, maybe God is saving us from something in the future. “But”, you say, “what if there are multiple doors open?” Then by all means proceed to the next question!

  3. Do you have the ability?
    The next part is to test our gifts, skills, and abilities. God has gifted each of us in a particular way for a particular time among a particular people. We have all seen people who are striving to do something (more than merely having it as a hobby) and yet they don’t have the ability to get the job done day in and day out. You know what? This is fine! We don’t have to pridefully look around at others doubting us and then put our heads down to become a slave to such an opportunity and then when we have finally “made it” to turn back to all our doubters or “haters” and rub it in their face. Maybe in our pursuit of such an opportunity we have run over many people trying to do that. We need to notice how God has made us and what abilities we have. It’s no shame to lack a certain ability for an opportunity. When we realize that life is more than our school and job then we can be content (and more wise) wherever God has us and whatever abilities and inabilities we have. What if God wants you at a mid-level position at a mid-level company so that you can learn to depend more on Him, witness to those around you, and to keep you from idols? If I don’t have the ability to be the CEO of a company then I think it’s safe to say that pursuing that opportunity is not God’s will. Another aspect to see is that God gives us different abilities in different seasons of our lives. BUT just because God might be growing my desire and ability to cook doesn’t mean I’m called to be a chef. This all takes discernment and prayer.

  4. Do you have the passion?
    You might have the opportunity and the ability but maybe you dread the idea of going to do such a thing. If you are walking with God and daily repenting then God is shaping your desires more and more to His (Ps. 37:4). BUT we also need to tap the brakes on the modern idea that we need to always be pursuing our dreams and passions. Much modern thought is that we must absolutely love what we’re doing and if we’re not then we need to change things up. This actually mistakes “love” for “like”. Love sticks around even when you’re not as passionate but “like” always follows the emotions. Maybe this opportunity that you have is a good one that’s healthy for you and your family, gives you long-term sustainability, puts you in a good place to live where good solid churches are, and is probably a place where the Lord would use you…but, it’s not necessarily the top on your list. That’s fine! To be sure, I’m not saying go to the place that you dread the most. There are few moments in life where God treats us like Jonah and tells us to go to Nineveh for work or school. There are many times where a place or a circumstance has to “grow on us” before we are passionate about it. This is different for marriage. You better be passionate about that person. End of story. Passion can ebb and flow and passion is certainly NOT puppy love where you always have to be holding hands. But, if you’re not passionate about being with that person for life then you might want to take some time. Does this mean that when you married and lose passion for your spouse that you might be “called” to a divorce? Absolutely not! Once again, that is not true love but only a “like”. Love stays even when passion fades. Love is a commitment through thick and thin (even really thin!!!). But when it comes to a school, job, or move then make sure you have a healthy desire for it even though it might not be at the top of your list.

  5. Are you making this decision in community?
    This does not mean that you need to post a poll on Facebook or Instagram to ask the world their decision. What I mean is that big decisions like this takes more than just you. Are you married? Talk to your spouse. Are you living at home? Talk with your parents. Do you have mentors? Ask them what they think about it. We can often acquire “tunnel vision” when making such decisions when others close to us can help us see more clearly. Big decisions shouldn’t be made quickly, lightly, or alone. Have you asked your pastor? Have your asked your community group? Have you asked your friends and family? Do they think it’s wise? Do they think you could do well there? Are there any “red flags” that stand out to them? Listen to these various verses in Proverbs. “With those who take advice is wisdom” (13:10b). “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (15:22).

  6. Where does church fit into your decision?
    This is the most neglected of all of these. This question isn’t last because of priority but rather it is last because it ties a nice bow around the whole situation. If we ignore the most central aspect of our lives (worshiping God not merely in all of life but also in the local church) in our decisions then we are evaluating the situation foolishly. We must begin and end all our discerning of God’s will with God. If our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and if God has called us to be apart of the local church (not just casually attend or just “date” the church) then we can be sure that this is a major factor to our decision. There have been several people who I have talked with who could’ve cared less about what churches or ministries were in the area. Their minds were on the flesh (Rom. 8:5-8). We need to do some research about what churches are in the area. Once again, we need to guard against the extreme that says that we must find the most relevant church that has a massive community with an incredible preacher and thriving ministries and unless there is that then I’m not going there. Maybe God wants you in a smaller, less relevant church where there is a faithful pastor who preaches the Word in season and out of season and, frankly, a church that needs you! Not just pastors are called to a local church. Another caveat is this: You might be forced to go somewhere where there isn’t a thriving church. This primarily refers to when you have the opportunity to wrestle with staying or leaving. But, let’s be sure that we’re not just saying we were “forced to” so that we can ignore the church question.

How to Respond When "Be Still and Quiet" Aren't an Option in Worship

One of the encouraging ministries of Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church is our Sonbeams Ministry, our care for special needs children and adults and their families. Our denominational special needs ministry, Engaging Disability with the Gospel, recently put out some thoughts on how to welcome and embrace the movement and sounds that some special needs individuals bring with them into a corporate worship time. We encourage all our members to read this post, for our desire is to be a place where families in a diverse manner of circumstances can gather to worship the Father through the Son by the Spirit. Let’s live out the gospel of grace that has lavished us with joyful love when we were spiritually disabled!


The Trend That Is Sweeping Across Youth Culture...And It's Not Good

There is a new trend in the teenage world—juuling. It is the e-cigarette of choice at the moment for those who desire to get a nicotine “fix”. There is no shortage of middle school, high school, and college students who “juul”. This is also very alarming because recent studies have shown dangerous and very harmful results from these products. Here is an article from the Washington Post that tells more.

In 2018, more than 37 percent of 12th-graders reported vaping at least once in the past 12 months, according to findings released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, even though many were too young to legally purchase the products. A year earlier, the figure was about 28 percent. When teens were asked about use in the 30 days before the survey, 21 percent said they had vaped, which was nearly double the rate from 2017.

Because of a variety of factors — genetics, trauma, peer behavior — some teens develop a strong attachment to the products, bonds that are unshakable even in the face of escalating consequences. Experts say teen brains are particularly vulnerable to addiction because they are still developing and that it is easier for teens to fall victim to addictive products because they have less impulse control.

They worry the chemical will shape the brains of teens, priming their “reward pathways” and making them more vulnerable to other kinds of substance abuse. They worry, too, that many pediatricians lack the expertise and treatments to help young people who cannot quit. And there are few treatment options for teens addicted to nicotine. While adult smokers seeking to quit have benefited from nicotine patches and the drug varenicline, better known as Chantix, there is scant evidence those treatments work for young people, according to Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital who specializes in tobacco cessation and who treated Cade Beauparlant.

“We have millions of kids now, millions of adolescents who are using mostly Juul — and in some cases other devices — who are unable to quit,” Winickoff said. “It’s something we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with.”

For the rest of the article, click here.

Parents, this is time to ask your child if they are juuling. To be honest, these items are VERY easy to hide and many simply keep them in their pockets. I have heard and seen students all around the city who juul at home, in the car on the way to school, in the bathroom stalls, in class, in the locker room, and pretty much anywhere you can imagine. Please, ask your child about this.

Want To Study Romans?

The youth ministry is going through the book of Romans this semester and while preparing for this I have gathered up all my Romans resources in order to study more effectively. What are some of the more helpful studies on Romans? What are good resources to lead a Bible study with or to use for your own devotions? Here is a list that divides some of the helpful commentaries and resources into categories for different uses (to be sure, this is NOT an exhaustive list):

  • Helpful commentaries for daily devotions (all of these are helpful for further studies as well)

    • Romans by J.V. Fesko

      • This is an easy to read commentary that would take you through Romans in 50 days. In my opinion, this is one of the best commentaries that I’ve read on Romans.

    • Romans for You (2 Volumes) by Tim Keller

      • This also is very easy to read and also very solid. Keller’s strength is helpful you understand Romans in a simple and clear way while also applying it to real life.

    • The Good Book Guide to Romans (2 Volumes) by Tim Keller

      • This is different from Keller’s devotional commentary in that it has a lot of space for you to answer the questions in the booklet. If you are the type of person who likes to use workbook type resources for your devotions then this one is for you.

    • Romans: The Gospel As It Really Is by Stuart Olyott

      • Short, to the point, and easy daily readings. Olyott strength is that he is clear and by the time you will finish him you should come away with a solid understand not only of the detailed content of Romans but a great overview as well.

  • Commentaries for Bible Studies (to go more in depth)

    • The Message of Romans by John Stott

      • In my opinion, this is a must use for any studies. Just be careful to make up your own first draft of a teaching/preaching outline before you read Stott because you will envy his outline every time you read him.

    • Romans (4 Volumes) by James Montgomery Boice

      • Boice is clear but he also dives deeper into the text which means that this is a longer series. Nevertheless, there is gold in this and is helpful for Bible Study teaching.

    • Romans: The NIV Application Commentary by Douglas Moo

      • Moo has written three commentaries on Romans…so he knows a lot about it. This is very helpful and useful for further studies. I have found it a great jump start when thinking about how to apply the text.

    • Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey by Douglas Moo

      • This is the resource that I read this summer to get a good “fly over” of Romans. I have found it incredibly helpful to grasp more of the big picture before diving down into the details. Clear, concise, to the point, and will help you understand the riches and history behind the book as well.

    • Romans (Geneva Series of Commentaries) by Robert Haldane

      • This is a classic in every since of the word. It is a commentary that has stood the test of time while also being so relevant for today. Haldane is a verse-by-verse commentary that goes into more depth but he is very readable even when he deals with critics. This is great for more detailed study of individual verses.

    • Romans by John Calvin

      • Once again, this is a classic. Best part about Calvin is that you can find him for free all over the Internet. Calvin is clear and concise and definitely one to consider when studying for a Bible study or sermon.

    • Romans by Charles Hodge

      • [Insert everything that I said about Calvin]

    • Romans by F.F. Bruce

      • Short, to the point, verse-by-verse and one of the best commentators from a Reformed perspective. I have found him very helpful and even used him as part of my daily devotions at times.

  • More in-depth studies

    • Romans by John Murray

      • This is “the granddaddy of them all” as sports commentator Keith Jackson used to say. This is certainly more technical and sometimes difficult to read but it pays off for the diligent. Murray is considered the best commentator on Romans in the Reformed world.

    • The Letter to the Romans by Douglas Moo

      • Closely behind Murray comes Moo with his third resource. This is still pretty clear but it certainly helps to know Greek at some level.

    • Romans by Leon Morris

      • In my early use of Morris, I have found him delightful to read and incredibly helpful to my studies. He interacts with the Greek but not necessarily too much where the non-Greek student wouldn’t have a clue as to what he is saying.

    • Romans by Thomas Schreiner

      • This is a big one and a technical one. This is most helpful with knowledge of the Greek but you could still read it if you don’t know the Greek and pick up some good tips along the way. Schreiner is long but very good in his verse-by-verse commentary.

Sleep Is Part Of Your Worship

There is no doubt that many people struggle with good and healthy sleeping habits. To be sure, some of the problem (if not much of the problem) has to do with our late night use of technology. To be sure, yet again, we also need to make certain that we don’t oversimplify the problem. There are many reasons why we don’t sleep well and our chronic lack of sleep can be a good indicator that something else is going on physically or spiritually. In these cases, we need to seek more counsel from people who know more than we do.

Over and over again, I hear students say that they try to fall asleep watching Netflix. Others will try going to sleep and once they toss and turn on their bed for a short amount of time they give up and turn their phone or TV back on.

I my experience I am seeing many people who are getting an average of 4-6 hours of sleep each night while studies show that those same people should be getting an average of 8-10 hours per night. It comes as no surprise to me that many of these people are the ones who struggle with anxious thoughts, endless stress, and even lust. Part of the reason why they aren’t getting sleep is caused by their anxious thoughts, endless stress, and due dates coming up. Unfortunately, it can seem like an endless circle where stress causes lack of sleep which causes more stress which causes more lack of sleep. I have had to learn that one of the earliest questions I need to ask when counseling someone is how much sleep they have gotten in the past several weeks.

To be clear, our children’s sleeping issues come from a variety of causes. We need to be careful saying that it is a one-to-one result of “bad parenting”. Sure, there are many helpful tips that we can implement but at the end of the day it is our children who must fall asleep for themselves. There are many reasons why we can have bad sleeping habits and if these are overlooked for a long period of time then they can cause further problems down the road.

Paul tells the Romans Christians in Romans 12:1-2 that we should present ourselves as “living sacrifices”. This means that the totality of our lives (body and soul) should be given to God as our spiritual worship. This includes our sleep. We should not pride ourselves for being able to stay up all night getting work done as if we are the most productive people in the world. Neither should we pride ourselves on getting 2-4 hours of sleep and fighting through the day like nothing is wrong with us as if we are Superman or Superwoman. One of the best ways we can worship God is to lay down our heads on our pillows and trust that He is good, He is sufficient, and He will provide for us. There are many nights where we have to fight to relax. There is a reason why God made us as creatures who need to spend a third of our lives sleeping. Think about that for a moment.

The following article is one of the more helpful articles I have found that dives into this topic more while also giving helpful tips for us to sleep better and help our children sleep better. Here is an excerpt:

In the Psalms, David shows that peaceful sleep is an act of trust and a sign of humility. “I lie down and sleep,” David said, “I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (Ps 3:5–6). He also said, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8).  Getting a good night’s rest shows that we know God is in control and will watch over us when we are at our most vulnerable.

Sleep is a sign of trust and humility. But it’s also a spiritual discipline. As D. A. Carson says,

Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need.

Like most spiritual disciplines, to be most effective sleep requires both a change in attitude and a change in habits. Here are a few things I learned and practical steps I’ve taken to better develop the spiritual activity of rest:

Get enough sleep — There are a number of factors that affect the quality of your rest, the most important being how long you sleep each night.

The amount of sleep a person needs varies from individual to individual and changes over the course of their lifetime. But if you’re like most people, chances are you’re not getting adequate sleep to be fully rested.

Here is the average number of hours of sleep, based on age, a person needs every day:

-6 to 13 years of age: 9 to 11 hours

-14 to 17 years of age: 8 to 10 hours

-18 to 25 years of age: 7 to 9 hours

-26 to 64 years of age: 7 to 9 hours

-65 and older: 7 to 8 hours

For the full article, click here.

8 Ways Satan Uses To Keep Us Out Of The Bible

There is no doubt that Satan knows the power of God’s word to change us. He works tirelessly to take away the seeds of Scripture planted in us (see Mark 4:14-15). He knows that the Bible, in the hands of the Holy
Spirit, is lethal against his tactics. Consider this excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in which a chief demon seeks to mentor a trainee demon in how to hurt the faith of believers:

“Don’t let him open the Enemy’s book. Have him think he’s not feeling spiritual enough. Suggest that it’s too complicated. Tell him he’s too tired. Be vigilant — five minutes of prayerful reading can set him back months (Rom 10:17).”

Satan knows that the Bible is integral to our mission here on this earth (John 17:14-19). He knows that the Bible sanctifies us and makes us holy (specifically focus on John 17:17). He knows that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). He knows that when we see Jesus by faith that we will transform more into His image by the Spirit’s power (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, what does he want to do? He wants to do all that it takes to keep us out of the Bible. How does he do that? There are certainly many things he does but here are eight ways which we commonly see today:

  1. Distracts you with your phone, social media, video games, Netflix, YouTube
    Name whatever it is that distracts you most—that is what Satan is using. Here’s the thing, many of the objects that he uses are good in themselves. He loves to use good things to distract us from ultimate things.
    Practical Tip: Turn your phone over during your devotions. If someone REALLY needs you then they will get you.

  2. Busyness with friends, school, work, sports, clubs, parenting, schedules, etc.
    How often do we find ourselves saying, “Well, I didn’t have time to get in the Word today.” Satan loves this tactic. Our day is a busy day. We are constantly on the go and we hardly like to stop. How often our Enemy likes to use our busyness and our productivity to actually keep us away from the Word that transforms us into the image of Christ.
    Practical Tip: Schedule your devotions and guard that time with your life. Seek to have a consistent time and place in order to build a better habit.

  3. Boredom by saying, “I already know this.”
    How many of us get to our devotions and immediately look at the text (say John 3:16 for example) and respond with, “I already got this one.” How little do we simmer over the text and bring out the rich flavors that are in the Word! Can we really look at God’s love and say, “Yea, I know that already”? Satan will use our familiarity and cause us to think that that Bible is somehow boring. We pay attention to that which captivates us most and if there is the seed within that gives fruit to the thought that the Bible is boring then Satan has won a battle in our hearts.
    Practical Tip: 1) Change up your Bible reading plan (if you’re doing bigger portions, change to smaller portions or vice versa). 2) Pick up other books that show you how amazing the Bible is (try Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God At His Word or D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There)

  4. Lesser works with devotional books (although good but not enough)
    Let me set this straight: Devotional books are good and very helpful when they are from authors that bring out the rich treasures of the Bible. Let me repeat: Solid, biblical devotional books are good. But, they are not Scripture. Nothing replaces meditating over the Bible itself. No one can outdo the Holy Spirit in His work. I don’t care who the author is, no one can do what the Holy Spirit does as He takes the Word into our hearts and sheds abroad the love of God. There are many times that Satan uses good and great devotional books to keep us away from meditating on the Bible. There are too many people who read more of their devotional books than they read the Bible. Satan loves to keep us in the devotional books and away from the Bible because he knows that the Bible will make us radically God-centered and Christ-like. Satan loves shallow Christians because shallow Christians are no threat to his kingdom. In order to keep making Christians shallow, he keeps us in anything other than the Bible.
    Practical Tip: Only use devotional books to help stir up your heart to get you into the Bible more. Do not settle for a devotional book that gives you one short verse to read but forces you to focus more of your attention on what they have to say. Pick up a devotional book that helps you understand the Bible better. We perish for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

  5. Unbelief in the Bible’s relevance, power, sufficiency, and necessity
    When we think that the Bible is relevant for today, powerful to change us, sufficient for our problems, or necessary for our daily living then Satan has won another battle. He loves to have us think that we can go today without reading our Bible. He works one day at a time to keep you each day away from the Scripture. He wants you to think that the Bible won’t address what you need to hear. He tries to convince you that you aren’t really changing whenever you meditate on God’s Word. He wants to persuade you that you’re fine on your own.
    Practical Tip: 1) Don’t measure your growth in short intervals. Rather, spend time in the Bible each day, studying to know what it is really saying, and after 6 months, 1 year, 5 years reflect on your life. 2) Read biographies of Christians who have been changed by God (Augustine’s Confessions, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Martin Luther, Susannah Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael) 3) Read good books on biblical counseling that address this issue (such as: The Dynamic Heart: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre, You Can Change by Tim Chester, or Cross Talk: Where Life and Scripture Meet by Michael Emlet)

  6. Mislead you into thinking other things work better
    We often run to other “fixes” to take our minds off of our problems. Some run to exercising (literally, they run their problems away) and some to venting to others (they want to talk their problems away). There are even Christian counselors who try to tell us that we need something “more” than the Bible. There is certainly a big trend in the evangelical world that sees therapy as the answer to inner change. Satan loves to get us to think that anything or anyone is better than the Bible. He wants us to think that if we merely take our minds off of the problem things go away. He often fools us into thinking that counseling (as great and necessary [yes, necessary at times] that biblical counseling is!) is a replacement to ourselves getting in the Bible. He wants to help us feel like we don’t need to the Bible and therefore keeps us from it.
    Practical Tip: Pray that God would show you the amazing power that is in the Bible. Pray that the Holy Spirit would take that Word into your heart to show you the wondrous things that are in His words. Listen to the testimonies of others who have been transformed by the gospel. Test God and His Word for yourself and see if He won’t change you.

  7. Grant self-confidence by thinking you’re fine without it for a day
    This is somewhat of a repeat from earlier but a necessary repeat. Satan loves to get us to think that we’re really OK without the Bible today. He wants us to think that there really isn’t too much going on in our lives for us to have to get in the Bible today. Satan wants us to see the Bible merely as medicine. We only need it if we’re sick. Self-confidence is a killer to our devotional lives.
    Practical Tip: Study the doctrine of total depravity. I mean, really study it. Just spend time and write down 30 reflections on John 15:5 and Ephesians 2:1-2.

  8. Keep you only reading it and never meditating on it and memorizing it
    ”Knowledge of the Word of God will not profit you, unless you frequently listen to it and meditate upon it.” Sound controversial? Well, it’s from the Puritan pastor Walter Marshall in his book The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification which is considered a classic on the subject. Satan loves to keep you merely reading the Bible. Besides, unbelievers read the Bible too. Once again, let me set the record straight once more: The Holy Spirit does use our Bible reading to convert us and sanctify us. But, we shouldn’t be satisfied with only a short and shallow reading of the Bible. What unbelievers don’t do is meditate on it in the power of the Spirit. Christians apply the Bible to their lives and Satan hates it when you do this. He hates it when you apply the gospel of free grace to your sinful life. If you defeat all his other ways, he wants you merely to read the Bible and get on with your day. He doesn’t want you to wrestle with it, apply it, meditate on it, study it, or teach it.
    Practical Tip: Let your Bible reading goal be for thoughtful and slow reading. Ask good questions of the Bible when you read it. Try to summarize what the main point of your reading is and then think about how that main point applies to your life today.

6 Ways to Bring Light to Heated Talks with Teenagers

The following article is from William P. Smith:

Every parent I’ve met has felt frustrated by repeatedly stumbling into difficult conversations with their teenage children. Those conversations seem to come out of nowhere, pack lots of energy, and leave everyone bruised and tiptoeing around each other . . .  until the next one.

I suspect hard conversations would take place even if we removed sin from the equation. By definition, teenagers are transitioning out of childhood. They’re figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and how to handle greater independence and responsibility, all while still living in your home. You’re both trying to redefine a relationship that should (rightly) no longer be what it was when they were younger. There’s simply no way you both can navigate this process without at least some bumps and mutual learning along the way.

While there’s no surefire way to guarantee easier, better conversations with your child, there are some things you can do to help them see you as more of an ally than a threat during these defining years.

1. Not everything that goes through your mind should come out of your mouth.

Think before you speak. Proverbs has a lot to say about the words we choose, but it comes down to the wise person being careful with what they say, whereas the fool blurts out whatever comes to mind (Prov. 12:23). If what you’re thinking really does need to be said, you can always bring it up later. If it’s foolish, though, you can’t get it back after it’s left your mouth.

2. Don’t interrupt or talk over your child.

Don’t talk over them any more than you want them to interrupt and talk over you. It’s the law of love: Do to them conversationally as you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12). Somehow, it’s easy to overlook Christ’s command when speaking to our children—to interact with them in ways we wouldn’t dream of with someone we just met. Imagine your child as someone you respect; then talk to them accordingly.

For the rest of the article, click here.

What Encouragement Do You Need To Cultivate A Prayer Life?

This summer the youth ministry has been going through a series on “Christianity According to Christ”. So far, we have gone through topics such as “Knowing Christ”, “Repentance”, and “Prayer”. All of the texts preached from have been from the Gospels as we are looking to show how Christ viewed Christianity. The whole premise is to show our youth what it really means to be a Christian.

This past Wednesday, we had the honor of having Zach Byrd come preach to the youth on “Prayer”. It is safe to say that this is one of the most clear and motivating sermons on prayer that I have ever heard. Several of our youth said that this was a phenomenal sermon. Zach is a student at RTS and the supply preacher at Bethesda Presbyterian Church and helps out with Youth Ministry at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

20 Quotes From John Kwasny's New Book

Our very own Dr. John C. Kwasny has released yet another book and this time on counseling teenagers. This is a fabulous book and certainly a must-read for youth workers and parents. Teenagers would also benefit greatly from getting this and reading it themselves. It is a great book to read straight through but also very beneficial as a resource book throughout the years. The structure of the book is laid out to be very accessible as it is divided up into topics. What I wanted to do in this post was give you 20 quotes from John’s new book to entice you to go to Amazon and buy it. Here we go:

  1. “Sadly, many teens are left to themselves during these years, dealing with the temptations and the struggles of their hearts and minds all on their own. Yet, all through the Book of Proverbs, young people are taught to gain wisdom through listening to and obeying their parents and other wise adults. If teenagers are to listen and learn wisdom, then parents and other mature adults are to speak wisdom and live wisely before them!” p. 13

  2. “When foundational views of God and people are faulty or deficient, the counsel that emerges from them will miss the mark as well. If you examine the advice given to teenagers today, including counsel given by some Christians, you will quickly learn that the main problem is that their underlying presuppositions are not Biblical.” p. 22

  3. “Teenagers have bodies and souls that are not fully developed, brains that are still maturing, and body chemistry that is still in flux. To not recognize teens as bodies and souls will keep us from recognizing the influence of their bodies on their souls. But the fundamental error on the other side of the coin is to only see teenagers as a mass of chemicals and hormones!” p. 27

  4. “Biblical change occurs when they learn to destroy the idols of their heart and constantly return to the right worship of God. As God’s Spirit and His Word do their joint work in hearts, change will be reflected on the doing and feeling levels as well.” p. 35

  5. “Biblical counseling is a gospel-driven, Christ-centered series of conversations between parent and child, counselor and counselee, leader and student. It is the essential work of relational dialogue that seeks true Biblical change, growth in grace, repentance and faith, knowledge and wisdom.” p. 37

  6. “So when teens are struggling with diverse problems, they need Biblical truth from the lips of their parents. They require the proper application of Scripture to their problems. They need parents who teach Biblical wisdom as well as ones who are living wisely in front of them.” p. 55

  7. “The starting point for just about any problem is for a person to actually acknowledge there is a problem.” p. 73

  8. “Don’t confront your teen’s anger with your own anger. Do show true compassion for the pain the teen is experiencing. Don’t excuse all anger as being simply a normal emotion.” p. 82

  9. “To rightly deal with anxiety that is either specific or generalized, the starting place is to recognize that our hearts are easily tempted to worry due to many difficulties in this life. Even that admission is difficult for many teens who act like they everything under control.” p. 89

  10. “When your teenager speaks about being depressed—or is displaying some of the common symptoms—it is essential to step back and get a bigger picture, a better view, of the problem. Why do we need to get the big picture of depression? Because it keeps us from oversimplifying the problem and assuming a singular, universal cause to all types of depression.” p. 106

  11. “As much as it’s vital to deal with heart issues like spiritual slavery and worthless false worship, our teens’ sinful thought patterns must be addressed as well. We literally have to answer the question: ‘What are they thinking?’” p. 131

  12. “Opal needs to see that her love of self has to be confessed and repented of before she can actually look at her body in the right way. This love of self is also connected to pride in our hearts, as we think we are entitled to be healthy, look good, or be at a certain weight.” p. 147

  13. “Our teens need to be reminded that being cleansed from sin is a fact, whether we feel it or not.” p. 167

  14. “Complete change is never promised to us in this life—of any sinful desire. We will only be fully cleansed of our sin in glory. Whatever the result, the Christian teen who believes the truth of God’s Word doesn’t just wait for desires to change, but works, by the Spirit to combat these thoughts and feelings—and not act on them.” p. 181

  15. “What teens must deal with is their tendency and temptation to love themselves more than they love God or other people. So, while Angie may be extremely self-critical when it comes to certain aspects of her body, this is really out of a deep love and concern for self.” p. 197

  16. “Pornography offers a place of escape—a way to sinfully engage imaginations—that seems to have no penalty involved. Rescuing our teens from the land of fantasy is a big part of solving the porn problem. We must keep them grounded in the real life that God has created for them, even when that reality is difficult or frustrating.” p. 209

  17. “How do we counsel a teenager with [the hook-up culture mentality] and overall pattern of behavior? The first question which needs to be asked: Is he even a Christian? It is extremely difficult to rationalize how sexual conquest with various partners is compatible with a love for Jesus.” p. 227

  18. “Teenagers rebel because they have rebellious hearts. They are not anomalies among a planet full of good, decent, moral people. This truth may not be comforting, but it is essential when we are addressing the problem of rebellion.” p. 239

  19. “Often times teenagers are rebelling partly because they are longing for the love and attention of their parents. That may sound overly simplistic, but even teenagers can behave in ways simply to get attention—even if it is purely negative attention.” p. 244

  20. “If joy only comes in the context of entertainment media, then everything else will become boring and lifeless. Even worse for the teen’s heart and mind, entertainment media can become the sole way to escape from the pain and suffering in this life. Keeping a God-centered holiness is what we desire to see in our teens as they grow up. Managing the impact of technology and media is an essential part of the sanctifying process.” p. 298

Recommended Podcasts

The following are some podcasts that I recommend for your car rides, workouts, plane rides, or any time when you get a prolonged opportunity to listen.

  • Obviously, at the top of our list we must include the podcasts from the church staff and members:

  • Podcasts from other ministries we listen to:

    • Alistair Begg Sermons

    • Behold Your God (This podcast has many solid teaching sessions on reading the Bible, evangelism, church history, good books, biblical doctrines, etc.)

    • H.B. Charles Jr. sermons

    • Kevin DeYoung sermons

    • Sinclair Ferguson sermons

    • Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons

    • Help Me Teach The Bible hosted by Nancy Guthrie (this podcast takes you through many of the books and main themes of the Bible while interviewing some of the best preachers and teachers in the country about how to teach a portion of Scripture)

    • John Piper sermons

    • Les Newsom Audio (this podcast is from former Ole Miss RUF minister and current Senior Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Oxford, MS)

    • Paul David Tripp sermons

    • Renewing Your Mind with R.C. Sproul (This podcast is the recordings of the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. These are teaching sessions on biblical doctrines, important figures in church history, popular topics today, and influential books from church history.)

    • RUF at Ole Miss (these are the sermons from Brian Sorgenfrei who is the current campus minister at Ole Miss)

    • RUF MIssissippi State University (these are the sermons from Elliott Everitt who is the current campus minister at MSU)

    • RUF Vanderbilt (these are the sermons from Richie Sessions who is the current campus minister at Vanderbilt)

    • Seeing Jesus with Paul Miller (This podcast is hosted by Paul Miller who is the author of several books and lessons including A Praying Life, Love Walked Among Us, and The Person of Jesus. In this podcast, Miller gives us a closer look at what Jesus was really like in hopes that as we see Jesus more we might live like Him.)

    • T4G Podcast (this podcast is from the bi-annual national conference for Together for the Gospel. Included here are sermons from John Piper, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Kevin DeYoung, and several others. Also included on here are the several elective classes that teach on various subjects.)

    • The Gospel Coalition (this podcast contains several sermons, messages, round table discussions, and interviews about various topics, doctrines, cultural trends, teaching sessions, etc.)

    • The Westminster Standards by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (This podcast is the teaching sessions from Dr. Sinclair Ferguson on the Westminster Confession of Faith.)

    • Tim Keller Sermons

    • TGC Word of the Week (this podcast features sermons from Reformed ministers from around the country including J.D. Greear, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, H.B. Charles Jr., Mark Dever, Robert Smith, Tim Keller, Bryan Chapell, Sam Allberry, and several others.)

    • Youth Culture Matters hosted by Walt Mueller (this podcast helps us think wisely and biblically about current youth culture issues)

10 Reasons Why You Can Trust That The Bible Is God's Word

In our “What Is Calvinism?” Sunday School class this past Sunday, we looked at the doctrine of Scripture along with the Holy Spirit’s role in using Scripture in the Church and Christian’s life. Towards the end of the class, I quickly mentioned 10 ways Calvin brings up about why we can trust that Scripture really is God’s Word. Here are the ten with some brief explanation:

  1. Scripture is superior to all human wisdom
    Calvin says, “What wonderful confirmation ensues when, with keener study, we ponder the economy of the divine wisdom, so well ordered and disposed; the completely heavenly character of its doctrine, savoring of nothing earthly; the beautiful agreement of all the parts with one another—as well as such other qualities as can gain majesty for the writings. But our hearts are more firmly grounded when we reflect that we are captivated with admiration for Scripture more by grandeur of subjects than by grace of language.”

  2. Not style but content is decisive
    Even though there is, as Calvin says, “an elegant and clear, even brilliant, manner of speaking, so that their eloquence yields nothing to secular writers” it is not the style of Scripture that captivates us so much as the content. What Scripture says is what gives more of a testimony to the Bible being God’s Word than anything else. Scripture is “clearly crammed with thoughts that could not be humanly conceived” says Calvin.

  3. The age of Scripture
    This has often been a very helpful argument for believers to be more convinced and for unbelievers to begin to see the truth of Scripture. The “great antiquity” of Scripture far outstrips all other writings. The fact that Scripture has been around for so long and through so much persecution should give divine testimony to men and women that only God could preserve such a Book. Not only that but if God were speaking from the beginning of time then He certainly would’ve have had His words recorded by men in order to preserve the truth. Why should it surprise us that the God who spoke thousands of years ago made sure that people wrote it down and kept it alive for us today? Isn’t that a sign that He loves us? When we say that Scripture is outdated then we not only call God outdated but we also doubt His love for us since He could not give us relevant truth for today.

  4. The truthfulness of Scripture seen in men proclaiming their own faults
    The Bible does not hide the shame and sin of its “own” people. The Bible, more than any other book and religion, shows the depravity of man and the sinfulness of sin. Why would men write so much of their own sinfulness and shame for all to read throughout history if they were making up their own religion? Certainly, the Bible shows not only the sin of unbelievers but also of believers. All stand in need of Christ and His grace and this is the testimony of Scripture from beginning to end.

  5. Miracles authorizing God’s messengers
    The Bible is a record of eyewitness accounts. The miracles that are recorded in the Bible did not happen behind closed doors for only the writers to see. Rather, the miracles were before the public eye and many gave testimony to them and then they were written down to be remembered. Take the gospel according to Mark, Mark is all about the eyewitness account of Jesus in which there are details that only people who were there could give. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus is said to have fallen asleep on the cushion in the boat. There is no need for that comment to be there except for the fact to show that the person who saw Jesus calm the stormy sea was actually there and remembers everything.

  6. The amount of prophecies that have come true (All of them!)
    There have been some calculations of over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus coming as the Messiah. How many of them have come true? All of them. On the contrary, can you predict one thing that will happen fifty years from now? How do you know that will happen?

  7. The preservation of the Law and Prophets
    Calvin says, “But even though all wicked men, as if conspiring together, have so shamelessly insulted the Jews, no one has ever dared charge them with substituting false books. For whatever, in their opinion, the Jewish religion may be, they confess Moses to be its author.” God has preserved His Word from the worst tyrants and persecutions in history.

  8. Simplicity and heavenly character
    The content of Bible is so simple than anyone who can read may understand it but it is also so heavenly that anyone who reads is confronted with a “heavenly character”. Calvin comments that “the truth cries out openly that these men who, previously contemptible among common folk, suddenly began to discourse so gloriously of the heavenly mysteries must have been instructed by the Spirit.”

  9. Unvarying testimony of the church to Scripture
    Although it is the Holy Spirit and not the Church who testifies that Scripture is God’s Word, nevertheless, the Church has throughout the centuries been unified in their recognition that the canon of Scripture is God’s Word. No matter what age, people, or culture, there has been a unity in the true Church that the Bible we have today is God’s Word.

  10. Martyrs who died
    Why would men and women die for a book that weren’t true? If they made it all up, why would someone choose to be burned alive as William Tyndale was? Even under the worst torture, why didn’t anyone just say, “You’re right! We came up with it ourselves!” These people would’ve had everything to lose by their deaths if the Bible was not God’s Word. But, if the Bible is God’s Word then they had everything to gain by their deaths if they died holding onto their confession of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Holy Scripture.

"The Plague of Lazy Pastors"

Whether you are in the ministry or not, this post is for you. There have been many books, and especially good ones, that have come out recently about the need for pastors and ministry workers to make sure they have a healthy work life. There is a need for proper and appropriate rest because of a noticeable amount of pastors who “burn out”. As true and good as the books are, there seems to be few that simultaneously promote a good work ethic (something that Protestantism and especially Calvinism has always done). Because of the gospel that speaks of the finished work of Christ on our behalf, Christians should be hard workers and not lazy workers. There is not only a need for good rest but there is certainly a need (if not a greater one) for truly hard work. Unfortunately, it seems that books tend to give more weight towards getting good rest at the expense of showing people how to work hard. But one will see that we must work hard in order to rest well.

Have you ever had the feeling that you needed a vacation from your vacation? There are several times when we spend a lazy Saturday to only feel just as tired the next day! In order to rest well we need to work hard. God gave us six days to work hard for His glory in order that we might rest hard for His glory on the Sabbath. When there is a sub-par work ethic, laziness abounds and rest escapes us.

David Mathis, pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis and frequent writer for Desiring God, has written a brilliant and much needed post about the work ethic of pastors. In this post, he shows that the Bible frequently talks about how pastors should be hard workers and laborers. The pastor should be known as a hard worker so much so that he is a proper example of what it means to work hard and rest well.

Here is a brief excerpt from his article:

So, good pastors are not lazy. They are hard workers — even in the face of a modern society freshly primed to criticize a leaders’ workism and encourage what amounts to laziness. Outward hard work, however, can come from a sinful inward disposition. All of us, pastors included, can work hard for the wrong reasons. For selfish ambition. For mere kudos and applause. From deep emotional insecurity. What, then, are the right reasons for hard work in pastoral ministry?

First and foremost, we work not for God’s acceptance but from his full embrace in Christ. We first own, in our own souls the Christian gospel, not another. We aim to labor from fullness of soul, not from emptiness. Such is the heart of the Protestant work ethic, noticeably distinct from the prevailing medieval ethic, which came before it and challenged it at every turn.

The first word to every pastor, as to every Christian, is not, Work, but, He worked. It is finished. Look to the labors of Christ. Look how he rose early to meditate and pray, how he navigated intrusive crowds, and had patience with maturing disciples, and untiringly did the works of his Father, and fielded inconvenient pleas from the sick and disabled and disadvantaged.

For the full article, click here.

John Calvin on the Gospel Logic of Ethnic/Racial Unity

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul writes, “For [Jesus Christ] is our peace, who has made us both one…” The “both” in this verse is a reference to Jew and Gentile. These two groups were opposed to one another, with the Jews in particular viewing the Gentiles with prideful superiority. Yet in the gospel of Jesus Christ, these ethnic and cultural divisions are broken down, and unity is created by and in Him. John Calvin helpfully and succinctly summarizes the pride of the Jews and the way the gospel of Jesus breaks this pride and unites a fractured relationship:

The Jews, puffed up with the privilege which God had conferred upon them, reckoned the Gentiles to be unworthy of being admitted to any intercourse whatever. To subdue this pride, [Paul] tells them that they and the Gentiles have been united into one body. Put all these things together, and you will frame the following syllogism: If the Jews wish to enjoy peace with God, they must have Christ as their Mediator. But Christ will not be their peace in any other way than by making them one body with the Gentiles. Therefore, unless the Jews admit the Gentiles to fellowship with them, they have no friendship with God. (Commentary on Ephesians 2:14)

May the Lord by His gospel cause us to live out the oneness that the cross of Christ has created across every racial, cultural, and economic barrier we erect between ourselves and other Christians.

Augustine on Two Cities, Two Loves

Pastor Carl quoted from Augustine this past Sunday, and I wanted to share an expanded version of that quote here:

Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; and the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of our conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of my head” (Psalm 3:3).

— Augustine, The City of God, Book 14, Chapter 28

May the Lord enable us to live each day as citizens of the city of God, the heavenly kingdom which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God Himself.

A-Z Questions for Bible Study

The right question makes all the difference in the world - and not just in Jeopardy. The best interviewers, whether on TV or on podcasts, ask the best questions - the most insightful, the most difficult, the ones that make their subject squirm, or laugh, or angry, or transparent. Knowing the right questions to ask of a person, or a text, usually means the difference between understanding and ignorance.

In 1884, the Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was published by Alfred Nevin. The following questions were included in it, as a guide for reading the New Testament in particular, but can be applied to the whole Bible. Helpfully, they are listed in alphabetical form. Keep these handy wherever you read and study God’s word.

In the study of the New Testament, and of the gospels especially, we need to inquire and compare. The inspired writings are infinitely rich in truth, and each verse is so connected with the rest that an intelligent inquirer may easily extend its investigations from one passage over the whole of Scripture. Without attempting to exhaust topics of inquiry, we mention the following :

A. What analogies between sensible and spiritual things may be here traced ?

A1. What prophecy is here accomplished? where found? when written? what rule of interpretation is illustrated?

B. What blessing is here sought or acknowledged, or promised, and why?

C. What custom is here referred to ?

C1. What trait of character is here given? good or bad? belonging to our natural or our renewed state? what advantages are connected with it?

D. What doctrine is here taught? how illustrated? what its practical influence ?

D1. What duty is here enforced, and how? from what motives ?

D2. What difficulty is here found in history or doctrine? how explained?

E. What evangelical or other experience is here recorded?

E1. What example is here placed before us? of sin or of holiness? lessons?

F. What facts are here related? what doctrine or duty do they illustrate? do you commend or blame them, and why ?

G. What is the geographical position of this country, or place? and what its history ?

H. What facts of natural history or of general history are here referred to or illustrated?

I. What institution or ordinance is here mentioned? On whom bindling? what its design? what its connection with other institutions?

I1. What instructions may be gathered from this fact, or parable, or miracle?

K. What knowledge of human nature, or want of knowledge, is here displayed?

L. What lofty expressions of devotional fervor?

L1. What Levitical institute is here mentioned? why appointed?

M. What miracle is here recorded? by whom wrought? in whose name? what were its results? what taught?

N. What is worthy of notice in this name?

P. What prohibition is here given? is it word, or thought, or deed it condemns?

P1. What is the meaning of the parable here given? what truth as to God, Christ, man, "the kingdom," is taught?

P2. What promise is here given? to whom?

R. What prophecy is here recorded? is it fulfilled? how? when?

S. What sin is here exposed?

S1. What sect is here introduced? mention its tenets.

T. What type is here traced?

T. What threatening? when inflicted?

U. What unjustifiable action of a good man? what unusual excellence in one not pious?

W. What woe is here denounced? what warning given? against whom, and why?

X. What is here taught of the work, character, person of Christ?

X1. What sublimity of thought or of language is here? what inference follows ?

"What Is Calvinism?" Sunday School Class Recordings

Due to many people who are in and out during the Summer, I have decided to start recording and posting the “What Is Calvinism?” Sunday School class lectures onto the “Wilson Van Hooser Audio” podcast. The podcast episodes will be named, for example, “What Is Calvinism? (Week 2)”. The details of the class will be listed on the podcast episode as well.

To access the first episode of the podcast, click HERE.

For the entire list of podcast episodes, click HERE.

Why Be Passionate In Preaching?

Sometimes you read a quote that profoundly shapes your outlook of an entire area of life. For me, the following quote by John Angell James has mightily shaped my view of preaching.

This then was the earnestness of the apostle; one constant, uniform, and undeviating endeavor to save men’s souls by the truth as it is in Jesus…

Is it probable there can be any earnestness in the hearers, when there is none in the preacher? “How is it,” said a minister to an actor, “that your performances, which are but pictures of the imagination, produce so much more effect than our sermons, which are all realities?” “Because,” said the actor, “we represent fictions as though they realities, and you preach realities as though they were fictions.”