Why My Wife Has Re-entered the Workplace

Today is Friday, August 17th, and while I’m recovering from an annoying case of vertigo, I have been reflecting on a decision my wife and I made about a month ago.  This afternoon my wife, Susan, will come home from her first week of teaching 2nd grade at a nearby school, the first job she has had outside the home in 17 years.  She is tired and yet she is excited about how the Lord is using her.

Not that she hasn’t been working.  For the last 17 years she has had the hardest job anyone could have, managing our home.  She has cooked thousands of meals, pushed grocery carts for thousands of miles, wiped noses (and other unmentionable areas of our childrens’ bodies) thousands of times, and picked up a thousand pairs of socks and underwear from the floor.  She has homeschooled all of our four sons at one time or another (none of whom are still in homeschool at present), and managed to transform a houseful of smelly, messy, testosterone-laden boys (present company included) into a home where the grace of God rests.  Oh yes, she has worked.

But this is the first time in 17 years she has worked outside the home.  We consider that to be a gracious blessing to our family.  Not everyone is able to have mom stay at home, but God has been gracious to make this desire a reality for our family.  He certainly required that we make sacrifices to make it work (financially and otherwise), but we don’t for a moment believe that living off of a pastor’s salary in a middle-class suburban context with 4 boys was our doing…no, it was our Sovereign God who made it work, and to Him we are so very grateful for this blessing.

But why the change?  Why now, after all these years is Susan jumping back into the workplace?  Great question!  For us, we always considered this to be part of the plan.  We knew that unless the Lord provided in some other way, Susan would need to get a job at some point in order for us to afford the looming expenses of sending four sons to college (which will begin for us in less than a year).  That provision had not come by the beginning of summer, and so we decided it was time to go ahead and start preparing for her to re-enter the workplace, and I am so proud of what she accomplished in taking courses and getting her Georgia teaching certificate re-certified.  Then, the arduous task of applying for jobs and interviewing.  As God would have it, a precious family friend notified us of a 2nd Grade teaching position at a school 7 minutes from our house.  Susan applied, had 2 interviews in a week, and received an offer the following week.  It all happened so fast, we found ourselves discussing whether or not to accept the offer before we really had an opportunity to pray about whether she should go back to work at all.  We just assumed that was what she was supposed to do.  After all, how else were we going to afford college?

That’s when the Lord urged both Susan and I to pause and pray.   The salary offered to Susan was such that it required us to seek the Lord’s wisdom.  Any lower and we would have been tempted to just decline the offer….after all, her working outside the home was going to have a major impact on our family and it needed to be financially “worth it”.  Conversely, if the offer had been any higher, we would have been tempted to just go ahead and accept it, seeing the higher salary as a “sign from God”.  Instead, the Lord was gracious to make the offer such that we really were forced to bring it to Him for discernment.  So, we brought the decision to the Lord, and He impressed upon both of us that we were looking at this decision from a “financial” perspective, instead of from a “missional” perspective.  This wasn’t a financial decision as much as it was a decision about what God wanted Susan to do with her life…in essence, what was His mission for her?

The real question the Lord caused us to wrestle with was, “Was God calling Susan to be a teacher?”.  If He wasn’t, then no amount of money would be worth her being outside of the will of God.  If He was, then no amount of money should stand in the way of her doing what the Lord was asking of her.  Boy, did that take the pressure off!  We simply needed to know what our Father’s mission was for Susan, and then trust Him with the financially aspect of how it would happen.  Once that became “the decision”, it was a fairly easy decision.  Susan’s heart has always been to teach children.  It’s what the Lord placed on her heart as a young girl, whether it be teaching our own kids in homeschool, teaching children at our church, or teaching in a traditional classroom, the Lord has created her to teach for His glory.  Once we were settled on her mission, the financial aspect of the decision became much easier.  Who were we to decline an opportunity to be engaged in what the Lord made her to do, just because it wasn’t going to completely satisfy all of our financial “wants”?  The Lord has always perfectly provided for us, as He has promised to do.  Were we now going to trust Him in this, or not?  We’ve discovered that after the Lord gives clarity to a decision and makes it more about whether we’re going to trust Him or not, the decisions get easier to make.  Ofcourse we would trust Him.

Now, I will readily admit that this has been an adjustment to our family’s life.  We have all needed to pitch-in and be more helpful around the house, but that has been a good thing.  The boys are learning more responsibility, and we are all looking at this as if our whole family is involved in the mission that the Lord has given to Susan.  And I think that’s pretty cool.

Let me encourage you not to make decisions like this based on the resources available to you, whether it’s time, money, or talents.  Instead, make it a decision based on mission.  Is the Lord asking you to do this…..or not?  And after He answers that question, then all you’ve got to do is trust Him.

Is My Kid’s Salvation Experience Real?

This past Sunday, as we were discussing the significance of John the Baptist’s water baptism, I touched very briefly on the implications for discussing baptism with our children.

In particular, I cautioned against rushing into baptism in order to provide our children an assurance of their salvation as soon as they make a decision to trust Christ.

I’d like to briefly address this a bit more in this post.

When our children tell us they have “accepted Christ”, we rightly want to celebrate this decision.  We also want to help them find assurance that their decision was real and genuine.  But how do we know if their response to the Gospel was real?  How do we know that they have genuinely trusted in Christ and repented of their sins?  How do we know if they really have new life in Christ or not?

The simple answer is that “only time will tell”.

Many times, parents in these situations will rush to give their child assurance of their salvation. But what’s the rush?  Do we think that if their conversion is real they will somehow lose it if they don’t get baptized right away or if they don’t get some “assurance” right away?  That’s impossible.  If it’s real today, it’ll be real tomorrow, and it’ll be real in a year.  If it’s real when they’re 6 (and yes, I believe that’s very possible), then it’ll also be real and even more apparent when they’re 12.

Let me be clear:  They will not lose their salvation simply because you waited to baptize them, or because you waited to give them other indications of your assurance that they are genuinely saved.  But conversely, we can do harm to them by giving them assurance too soon, if their “decision” was not genuine.  By baptizing them, telling them they’re “saved”, or the like, we can give them a false assurance, and end up inoculating them against the Gospel.

in-oc-u-la-tion – to introduce the causal agent of a virus into the body in order to generate immunity to that virus

Giving false assurance of salvation to children who are not genuinely saved could actually be “immunizing” our children against the Gospel.  We see evidence of this all over the place.

Where are all the children who “accepted Christ as Lord & Savior” in VBS and Sunday School 20 years ago?  Where are they today?  They’re not in the church!  Statistics are overwhelmingly convincing…the 21st century Church in America allows (and unknowingly encourages) false conversions year after year – only to see those children grow up and leave the faith.  How many examples can you personally name?

The reality is they didn’t leave the faith; they were never IN the faith.  But if you ask them today, they’ll say, “yeah I’m a Christian, yeah, I got saved when I was 5, 6, 7,…and I even got baptized, I don’t need to hear about the Gospel.”  What a tragedy!

A sobering question for us is, “Are we doing this today with our own children?”

So, how can you tell?  How can you tell if their decision to trust in Christ is real?

In recent years, in an attempt to determine whether someone is really saved or not (particularly children), we encourage them to say a simple prayer (the “sinner’s prayer”), or we tell them they need to “invite Jesus into their heart”.

The hope with this strategy is that as long as they say those words (and mean them), then we don’t have to do the hard work of actually looking for evidence of genuine repentance and regeneration. All we have to do is know that they prayed a prayer, and asked Jesus into their heart.

The problem with this strategy is that those things simply aren’t in the Bible!

The Bible never says that you have to pray a certain prayer to be saved.  The Bible never says anything about “asking Jesus into our heart” in order to be saved, yet we want to use that with children, and tell them that’s all they need to do to be saved!?  What child DOESN’T want Jesus to be in their heart?  If we’ve told them Jesus is loving and good, of course they’ll want Jesus in their heart, but that doesn’t mean they have any awareness of their own sinfulness and need to trust in Christ and repent.

Likewise, the Bible doesn’t say anything about the need to raise a hand, walk an aisle, get baptized, etc., in order to be saved.  Biblically, assurance of salvation is not based on any of these external symbols.  Our response to the Gospel is simply faith & repentance, and our assurance of salvation is based on how we answer two simple questions:

  1. Whom are we trusting right now for our salvation?  Are we trusting in self to be saved (what I do), or trusting solely in what Jesus has accomplished to save us?
  2. Is their evidence of change, of new life in Christ, and of genuine faith and repentance of sin?

So, how can you tell if your child is really saved?  According to these two questions, a child who has genuinely trusted in Christ for salvation, will continue to trust in Christ for salvation.  If they are genuinely trusting in Jesus’ finished work on the Cross as their only hope for salvation, then they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

Likewise, a child who has received new life in Christ will (over time) give evidence of this new life.  Granted, this is difficult to discern in a child.  It’s not as if they were a murderous thief when they were 5, and now we see this colossal change in their life.  Nevertheless, over time, you will begin to see “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).  They will begin to show a new and growing affection for God.  They will become more interested in reading their Bible and spending more time in private prayer.  They will become increasingly aware of (and convicted of) their own sins.  They will have a growing concern for their own personal holiness.  These are things that parents will begin to see over time.  It may not be evident right away, but “time will tell”.

So, when our child comes to us and says, “Mom, Dad, I am trusting in Christ for my salvation…I’ve repented of my sins….and I think I’m saved now!” – How are we to respond?

We have 3 choices:

1. We can rush to give them assurance of their salvation.  We’ve discussed (above) the dangers in this approach.

2. We can be a spiritual wet blanket”  We can say, “No son, you didn’t do that.  Your mother and I still see too much of your sin nature in you….and we seriously doubt that you are genuine in your faith & repentance….we don’t think you are regenerated in Christ….and so therefore, we conclude that you are self-deceived about your salvation…sorry, you’re not a real Christian yet”.

    NO….DON’T DO THAT!!  Although in reality those things may be true of our child, we don’t want to squelch the work of the Holy Spirit on their heart.  We want to stimulate that work, and encourage them to keep moving toward God.

    3. We can encourage them.

      “Great son!  That’s awesome!  You keep on trusting in Christ and repenting of your sins.  That’s just what God wants you to do.   More than anything, we want to know that God has really changed your life….and we can only know that if you keep on trusting and repenting, and acting like a real follower of Christ.  This will show that you have a new heart…and that God has truly changed you….so keep trusting and repenting, and Mom and I will be watching and praying…and as questions come up, we’ll talk about them”.

      You want to be encouraging and positive and sincere.

      What’s the danger in NOT giving them a bunch of assurance right away?  Are we afraid that they will walk away from the faith if they don’t get some assurance real quick?  Listen, if they walk away from the faith it’s because their response (whatever it was) wasn’t genuine and wasn’t real……and friends, if that happens….you don’t want them walking around 20 years later with FALSE ASSURANCE (“Oh, I’m good, b/c my parents said I was saved when I was 6”).   NO…..you want them to remember, “Mom and Dad said that if my response to the Gospel was real…I’d keep on trusting in Christ, and living a life that gave evidence of genuine repentance….well, I’m not doing that….and so I know I’m not saved…and I desperately need the Gospel!”

      May God grant you wisdom as you bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord….and may He give you discernment as you shepherd his/her soul.

      Women Exhorting Women

      In our service yesterday, we looked at Titus 2:3-5, and discovered a list of character qualities that older women are to be building intoyounger women.  Here’s a resource that might prove helpful to those who desire to take up the mantel of mentoring those younger than yourself.

      Carolyn Mahaney has put together an audio series that can be downloaded as MP3s (as well as PDFs of the message outlines) from the Sovereign Grace website.  If you prefer reading books to listening to messages, then check out Mahaney’s Feminine Appeal from Crossway Books.  I highly commend both of these resources for “older” women looking to be obedient to the call to “teach what is good”.

       

       

      The audio series is called “To Teach What Is Good”, and the message titles are:

      (Click on a message title to read its description or to download the free        MP3.)

      1. A Fresh Look at Titus 2

      2. Loving My Husband

      3. Loving My Children

      4. Being Self-Controlled

      5. Being Pure

      6. Being Busy At Home

      7. Being Kind/Doing Good<!–

      8. Being Subject to My Husband

      On Becoming a One Woman Man

      In the sermon last week I referenced a list of questions from Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile (pastor of FBC Grand Cayman Islands), that will help us evaluate the degree to which we are being transformed into a “one woman man” as outlined in Titus 1:6.   I said that I would list those on the blog, so here they are.

      Ladies, remember, you can substitute the word “woman” for “man here (not for the purposes of determining whether or not you should serve as an elder – we covered that last week), but for the purpose of evaluating yourself…are you a “one man kind of woman”?

      Here’s Thabiti’s questions, as listed on his blog (Pure Church):

      Questions and Observations for Single Men

      1. What are the man’s habits regarding dating and fellowship with Christian women? A man given to serial dating may be undiscerning and careless with the hearts of Christian sisters. If he is “playful” in matters of the heart, he may need discipleship in this area and will not be an appropriate example to the flock. Does he treat sisters in the faith “with absolute purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). Is that evident in the single man’s social conduct with other women?

      2. What are a man’s entertainment choices? Does he view sexually explicit material or pornography? If he is embattled with this issue, it’s best not to make such a man an elder. He will be responsible for being an example, teaching younger men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:6), and a life of sexual impurity is incongruent with the office.

      3. Related to the above, how does the man battle lust? Does he gouge out his eye and cut off his hands (Matt. 5:27-30)? The warfare against sexual immorality must be waged at the level of desire. Men in the eldership should fight their sins like Christians, which means they must radically deny opportunity for the flesh, the world, and the devil to excite lusts leading to sin. And they must cultivate a deeper desire for Christ and the things of Christ. A single man who maintains camouflage in this area, or who flirts with or coddles his lust, is a danger to himself and others. An elder must accept and desire accountability in this area.

      Of course, these are questions that apply to married men as well. But with a single man, determining if he is a “one woman man” requires thinking about the trajectory of his affections rather than examining his marital behavior. Do his behaviors “tend toward” purity or do they suggest immaturities to be avoided?

      Questions and Observations for Married Men

      1. Does the man evidence fidelity to his wife? Is he faithful emotionally and physically? A potential elder should be asked directly if he is in or has had an adulterous relationship with another woman, if he has broken the marital covenant. And if not the physical act, has he become emotionally involved with someone in a way that disqualifies him from the office? It would be wise to have this conversation with his wife as well. She may provide insight into the husband’s attitude and behavior that may be blind spots for him. And it’s wise to know whether the wife supports her husband as qualified for eldership. It’s better to know these things previous to making a man an elder. The position and requirements of eldership will only add stress to any fractures that may already be present.

      2. Does he organize his interactions with female coworkers and ladies in the church in a way that provides full accountability and transparency? For example, is he careful to avoid potentially compromising and tempting situations with women (traveling or meeting alone, etc.)? Elders who work in co-ed environments ought to be the kind of men that are trusted by female co-workers–not because they’ve proven themselves good counselors in intimate matters but because they’ve appropriately avoided such intimate encounters altogether and established safe distance from temptation.

      3. Is the potential elder faithful in making his home marriage centered? By God’s design, at the center of the family is sthe marriage of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24). Men and women leave and cleave from their parents and become one flesh. Being a one-woman man means, in part, maintaining a family atmosphere that disallows other people or things (children and work, for example) from displacing the marriage as the center of the family. This is part of what it means to have a well-ordered home. A potential elder prizes his wife even above the other precious people in the home and in earthly relationships directs his affections to that one woman first and foremost.


      The purposes of a Christian counter-cultural community

      God’s people are to live out their lives as a counter-cultural community whose citizenship is ultimately God’s Kingdom. (Mark Driscoll)

      In their excellent book Vintage Church, authors Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears create a compelling picture of what a Christian counter-cultural community looks like and what it’s primary purposes should be.

      They impart a three-fold purpose that gives us a snapshot of what we should look like as followers of Christ in the world and time in which we live. They are indeed counter-cultural in that they are the opposite of what our culture believes and teaches.

      As you read these three purposes, try and picture how they will be played out in the context of your family, your BASE group, and in our church.

      There are a few questions listed below each one to get you thinking along these lines. I would encourage you to discuss them at your next family meal, or BASE Group meeting, or even to take time to record them and pray over them in your spiritual journal.

      Purpose 1: To worship God by obeying Scripture.

      • To what extent is Scripture the primary influence of your life?
      • How is the primacy of Scripture displayed in your family (BASE Group, church, etc.)?
      • How is God worshiped and glorified by our obedience to His Word?
      • How do those who do not know Christ in our lives respond when we obey Scripture instead of peer pressure, or personal desires?

      Purpose 2: To train younger generations in misisonal living so that there is a legacy of faith.

      • What are you doing right now to train up younger generations in misisonal living?
      • What is our church doing?
      • What is your BASE Group doing?
      • How you can be more involved in what is already being done? How can you get something new started?
      • In what ways do we train up younger generations for missional living?

      Purpose 3: To provide lost people with an alternative and attractive way of life with Jesus and His people.

      • How does your life attract other people to Christ?
      • Do you think people are attracted to Christ when they come to our church or to your BASE Group? Why or why not?
      • In what ways do we provide lost people with an alternative and attractive way of life with Jesus and His people?

      Would anyone care to venture some answers to some of these questions in the comments section? Or does anyone else have questions or comments to add that will help us unpack the meaning of this three-fold purpose even more?

      Baby Dedication versus Infant Baptism

      This Sunday we will be celebrating Baby Dedication at our church.  While this may be a familiar tradition to many, to others it may not be something that they have ever seen.  Regardless of what we have seen in our respective pasts, it is important for us to understand why we do what we do (lest we become guilty of meaningless liturgy – going through the motions with no real understanding of why – which is empty religion).

      For that reason, I’d like to explain why we celebrate baby dedication as opposed to the baptism of babies.

      First of all, there are a couple of views of baptism that we need to consider.  The first is

      the practice of paedobaptism – the baptism of infants.  This tradition is often misunderstood by the evangelical church that practices believer’s baptism, because often we confuse the Presbyterian view with the Roman Catholic view.

      The Roman Catholic view teaches that infant baptism saves or regenerates the baby by infusing saving grace into the soul of the infant, which in turn washes away original sin without any faith on the part of the baby.

      On the other hand, Presbyterian infant baptism has to do with God’s covenant relationship with Christian families.  In this view, baptism does not have any regenerating benefits.  Further, it also does not mean that every baby who is baptized will be necessarily saved.  Salvation is still by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from any works of man (including baptism).

      The second view of baptism, and the one which we affirm here at NewBranch, is that baptism is a sign that one has come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, baptism is for those who have an understanding of their salvation and are publicly professing their faith before the Lord and the congregation.  As they are immersed they are illustrating their death, burial and resurrection as a new creature in Christ, which has come to them by faith through grace.  This is called credo-baptism.

      Since the view of baptism we affirm requires a baptism candidate to demonstrate individual faith in Jesus Christ, and since babies are not developmentally able to do so, we do not baptize babies.  Instead, we prefer to celebrate a child’s entrance into a Christian family with whom God has a covenant relationship, by allowing those parents to dedicate their children in a Baby Dedication service.  In this service, parents are in essence saying to the Lord:

      We understand Lord, that our child has been given to us by You as a precious gift, but we recognize our inability to raise this child as You would ultimately desire, so we present our children to You and ask that You would bless, protect, provide for, and save our child – and guide and lead us as parents to raise them in a home that is pleasing to You and glorifies Your name.

      The foundation of both the Presbyterian view of infant baptism as well as our view of baby dedication is the covenant. In fact, the covenant is the basis of all of God’s dealings with man.  It is the basis of all that God has done, is doing, and will do in time and on earth. Nothing can be understood rightly apart from an understanding of God’s covenant with man. The covenant is the means by which man has communion with God. It is a living bond between God and man wherein God pledges to be our God and claims us to be His people. The common formula by which God describes this relationship is, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

      At NewBranch Community Church we believe that children of believers have a special place in the covenant community. We read in Psalm 127:3 ‘Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him.’   And then Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

      Children are indeed special gifts from the Lord and are highly valued by Him.  God certainly saves His elect as individuals – one at a time – but little children are a part of something bigger – the family – and the family is to be a part of something bigger – the local church or covenant community – and the covenant community at NewBranch is a part of something even bigger – the universal church of Jesus Christ – the Body of Christ.

      Men, Marriage, and Leading.

      The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

      I have never felt qualified to talk about marriage. Even now, I’m only 2 and a half years in. However, I am confident that if I had to be perfect on everything I talked about, then I wouldn’t have much to talk about. (Meaning… maybe I could talk about how to tie my shoes.) I still am not especially qualified, which is why this is a discussion more than a teaching.

      Lately, I’ve been studying and reading some pretty convicting stuff on marriage that I wanted to pass along entirely as a fellow sojourner, and entirely NOT as someone who is an expert. (Most of this stuff is a review of stuff we heard in the last marriage series, but I’m a little slow sometimes.)

      Let me just leave you with a few snippets from “Reforming Marriage” by Douglas Wilson.

      “Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of the wife.” pg. 24

      Ouch. All of the above is grounded in the indicative statement of Ephesians 5:23 that “the husband is head of the wife”. Wilson points out that the verse is not the imperative, as if to say “Husbands, be the head of the wife”, but rather the indicative noting that this is the reality that needs to be lived out. For better or worse, I am the leader of my home. I may hit or I may strike out, but I am the one that has to step up to the plate all the same.

      “One of the central difficulties we face in our culture today is the general ‘wimping out’ of the Christian men. Men have abdicated their God-given strength, leadership, and authority. They do not want to take the masculine role; they do not want to take the initiative because they have taken the easy way out.”

      Ouch. (I read this whole book aloud with my wife…can you imagine how humbling that was?!)

      So, having shared just a couple of quotes with you, let me begin a discussion on fleshing this out. The truth is that husbands are to be the leaders, but we will all lead with different styles. I think we would benefit from sharing ideas. In venturing to this, let us shy away from the foolishness of thinking that there’s one exact way that this should be done. Let us not venture down the road of legalism wherein we take our methods and impose them on our brothers as THE only way.

      What do you do to lead your family spiritually? What are your best practices?

      I’ll offer my two cents. (Which is really worth about that.)

      -I found that reading a good book together at night before we went to bed was a great way to get the ball rolling of having more spiritual conversation in our home. This could be a book of the Bible, but at times it could also be solid books on particular issues.

      -I have always resisted scheduled “date nights”, because a) it seemed too cutesy (What’s next? matching sweaters?) and b) I thought I shouldn’t have to schedule to do things that I really wanted to do, I should just do them. But with the busyness of graduating college, ministry, and her having to work full-time, I realized that sometimes you have to plan to do things that you want to do, or the things that you DON’T want to or only KIND OF wan to do will choke out the things you REALLY want to do. Besides, it’s great to have those on the calendar so that when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, you can reply “I have plans that night.” (I jest.)

      Men, what about you? What are your wrestlings with how to live out the truth that you are the head of your family?  What have you done that is been helpful in this area?

      Women, what does your husband do as an effective leader in your family?