Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Are You a Good Parent?

Who Is a Good Parent?

It’s a loaded question, isn’t it? It seems to me that often the people who think they are great parents aren’t, and the parents who are doing a great job (even if imperfect) tend to feel their weakness the most acutely.

As evangelicals in the western world in the 21st century, it seems that there is more pressure than ever to do well at this parenting thing. We have Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram telling us everyday how great everyone else is doing at this parenting thing; the proof is in the nicely edited photos, right? The family lives of so many others around us seem to be smiling faces, happy hearts, and many memorable moments of family fun.

And that’s just the world. Nevermind in the church. Other Christians are doing a great job at family devotions, praying for world missions, and teaching their children to memorize the whole Bible (or so it seems). And doesn’t that make sense? I mean, if the non-Christians in the world are doing well at this family thing, should we be doing better? Isn’t family a Christian thing?

Sadly, many Christian parents end up feeling guilty, over-burdened, and stressed trying to keep up with all the family things that we feel we need to do to be good parents.
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Wise Words on Fathering

Proverbat_22_6My friend, Kevin Dibbley, wrote an excellent note a couple of weeks ago to a new father. Reflecting on his own experience raising his daughters, Kevin offers some sound advice that rebuked me, encouraged me, and moved me to tears of thankfulness.

If you’re a parent (or know one) you should read this post (or get them to read this post).

Here’s a snippet:

Don’t take yourself so seriously. That may sound like a strange thing to say, especially at a time in our culture when there is a great need for serious parenting, and in particular, diligent and faithful fathering. I am not saying that as a Dad you don’t need to give yourself fully to your calling to love and to lead. What I do mean is that you need to recognize that God is big enough for the road ahead. When Moses was in the midst of his journey leading the nation of Israel, he became overwhelmed by the task. Israel was a tough nation. Moses’ fear, however, was not the dread of seeing how messed up Israel was. He was afraid of seeing his own inadequacies and failures. In fact, at one point, he pleads with the Lord that if the Lord has favour upon him, that He should kill Moses, so that Moses wouldn’t have to look at his own “wretchedness” (Numbers 11:15). You are about to get a life long tour of your own inadequacies. Remember then that God did not put this child in your hands because He wanted you to show how competent you are. He put this child in your hands to show you how great His love and goodness are. Your goal is to point your child to Jesus. You don’t have to be the hero of your child’s story.

Read the full post here: “A Note for Josh at the Birth of Grace.”

Tough Words on Forgiveness

forgivenessIn his excellent commentary on Luke’s Gospel, David Garland spends some time thinking about forgiveness as he reflects on the Lord’s model prayer (Luke 11.1-4). He then cites C.S. Lewis on the topic of forgiveness and what Christians really believe:

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none our own. 1

Garland then continues: 2

Though most people agree that forgiveness is admirable, it is not easy. Alexander Pope’s adage, “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” may explain why human so often fail to practice this divine trait. It has been said that some bury the hatchet but leave the handle sticking out of the ground so that it is ready to grasp when they want it. Others ask, “Do I have to forgive if the offender does not repent?” It may never occur to them to ask, “Can the offender repent if I do not forgive?”

 

Jesus understands that forgiveness is as important for the one who has been hurt as for the one who caused the hurt. Forgiveness keeps one from being clobbered again and again when the memories resurface. Harboring a grudge opens persons up to the danger of defining their lives by how they have been hurt. Forgiveness provides release. Smedes writes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” 3

It’s easy to understand forgiveness in theory. It’s another thing to be defined by it and display it. Forgiveness is one of the most costly things anyone can ever do. It always has been; especially at the cross. Forgiveness hurts. But it also heals.

May God give us grace to live this. Only the power of the cross can make it so.

Notes:

  1. “On Forgiveness,” in The Weight of Glory (London: SPCK, 1949; repr. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), 178.
  2. From David E. Garland, Luke, ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 472.
  3. Garland is quoting from Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1984).

The Foot of the Cross

cross redIt seems chaotic. Crowds moving, people hollering. Some are mocking and laughing. Others simply shake their heads as they pass by. For many there, vicious — almost indescribable — anger is thinly veiled beneath jeering and taunting. Never has laughter been so spiteful.

And then there are a few — just a few — who stand still. Silently, mournfully, disbelievingly, gazing upward at a bloodied and broken man, still hoping that any moment now they will awake to find this has been a horrific dream. But it’s not. It won’t go away. Nothing has ever been more real. Nothing has ever seared the eyes of his loved ones and friends like this sight. And nothing will ever look the same.

The crowd itself is diverse. There are young and old, male and female, rich and poor. Some people just happened to be passing by on the way into town, some are there for the show, and others are there to make sure that death truly transpires. There are many Jews, but also Romans. Soldiers and government officials, to be precise.

Everything about the moment seems wrong. A man who had been righteous, merciful, gracious, and kind is now maligned. He who had preached love is hated. The one who had claimed to be a king is strung up as a criminal. The one who was supposed to save the Jews from their oppressors has been handed over by the Jews to their oppressors to be killed. The only human who has ever tasted true innocence or breathed true righteousness is condemned and suffering death for sin.

It is as if nature can’t bear the burden. People who died long ago are raised. The earth quakes. The day becomes dark. The holy place of the temple is exposed as the curtain tears in two from top to bottom.

Here, in this moment, the most bizarre convergence of wills of all time takes place: the will of man for the death of God and the will of God for the life of man. Death approaches for Jesus as life draws near for us.
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So Much More Than Manners

Say ‘Thank You!’

As a bratty little boy I had to be constantly reminded to say ‘Thank you’ for things. I was unthankful and presumptuous. My elders were working for my good when they laboured to teach me my manners, and I am very thankful for it.

give thanks

Sadly, my hardness of heart through my youth set some persistent patterns in my life and behaviour. My unwillingness to be thankful as a matter of courtesy continued into adulthood. It’s really only over the past few years that I’ve begun to realize just how connected thanklessness / thankfulness is to my heart’s whole disposition.

Recently, I thought it would be good for me to go back and do a little study on thankfulness in the New Testament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Not only was the study huge, it was hugely convicting.

I was expecting the apostle Paul to command us to be thankful. I wasn’t expecting the New Testament to model and expect so much about thankfulness. And I wasn’t expecting to see just how clearly thankfulness is so much more than manners; it is bound up with godliness and worship in every area of our lives.

Some Findings

I want to provide you with my compilation of New Testament texts and teaching on thankfulness. I think the best way to use it is to download the PDF, print it, go through the texts one-by-one and make notes on them.

That being said, I know that many of you (a) won’t do that, or, (b) won’t do that without convincing, so I’m going to offer a few highlights here.

Jesus Himself Modelled Thankfulness

And note the things he thanks his Father for. These are things I would complain and be bitter about, but he gives thanks.

ESV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

ESV Luke 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. …  19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

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When Divorce Is Good and Holy… Christians Are Confused

Someone recently forwarded me an article called ‘When Divorce is Good and Holy‘ and asked for my thoughts. I don’t typically respond to other people’s posts publicly but when I read this one, I felt a strong sense of urgency within my own heart to reply. When it comes to issues like marriage, which are so close to the heart of God, we need to think very carefully.

The premise of the article is simple: If Jesus upholds divorce as a legitimate option then we ought to view it as good and holy, when carried out according to his teaching. Therefore, we ought to stop criticizing those who want a divorce (for legitimate reasons like pornography use, etc.), and we must stop compelling them to stay in the marriage as if it is the only thing that would please God. In fact, the author goes one step further: He even asserts that when divorce is upheld as the good and holy option that it is, divorce rates and pornography use will decline.

I take several issues with that line of thinking. A few of them are outlined below.

1. The Law Never, Never, Never Empowers Righteousness

Hard temporal consequences for our sin can slow and stop our pursuits of sin. Perhaps evangelical divorce rates would actually decline.

This teaching is essentially functioning according to a law & sanction system. If you break the law, you will suffer the consequences. The thought is that potential enforcement of the law will bring change.

Now, the law teaches righteousness inasmuch as it shows us God’s hatred for sin and love for what is just. But the law is powerless to bring about holiness. In fact, the power of sin is the law (1 Cor 15.56) and it brings death.

Does the law have an effect in slowing the progress of sin? Yes, it certainly can (though it can have the opposite effect too, cf. Rom 7.7-11). But are we only looking for changed behaviour or changed hearts? If we are seeking changed hearts, is law sufficient?

What good did the threat of law-enforcement do Israel? Certainly, she didn’t immediately become like the nations around her. But eventually, she did. The progress of sin was slowed, but the hearts of the people were unchanged. And that’s simply not good enough.

It is only through free grace, welcome, reconciliation, and forgiveness, that hearts are won and changed. Grace gives life; the law kills. If the end goal is the changed heart of the sinning spouse, rather than simply behaviour change, shouldn’t we aim for grace?

If bad spouses are going to become good spouses we don’t need the law hung over our heads so much grace held in front of our eyes.

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What Has Christ Cost You?

The Big Question

It’s a personal question, but it’s one that must be asked: What has it cost you to follow Jesus?

This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching Luke 6.12-26. There Jesus considers those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and rejected as ‘blessed.’ They are to be happy. He even commands them to rejoice!

Why would that be blessed? Doesn’t all of human history testify to our striving as a race to get away from poverty, hunger, weeping, and rejection? Why should these people be happy?

Jesus answers: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Their future reward is greater in eternity which will never end. They will be comforted, they will laugh, they will be accepted. You see, it’s not the mere notion of poverty that Jesus prizes, but rather the reason for the poverty:

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

These people are not blessed because they have nothing; they’re blessed because following Jesus has cost them everything. See the difference? They valued Jesus so much and this world so little that they gave up this world and its passing comforts for the next world and its unfading riches.
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