The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

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The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He will return in glory

Here are my notes from Mike Cain’s exposition on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This fourth session focused on Jesus, He will return in glory.

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Knowing the future means that I know what to give myself to now.  Paul sums up the Christian life as waiting for the King to come back in 2 Thessalonians, getting ready for Him.  For some this meant persecution (v4).  But if Jesus isn’t coming back there is no point in getting ready. 

If we’re not waiting for the King to return we will not be able to live the Christian life at all.  

Four reasons to stand firm on the conviction that Jesus will return: 

1) God is Just (v5-6) 

Day of Judgment is real because of what God is like.  God is just so will judge.  Persecution is evidence that God’s judgment is right.  The story of the Bible is how the Creator of the world will bring justice to the world in the light of the injustice of sin.  The Thessalonians were wobbling because it looked like God won’t judge.  We are wobbling because it looks like He will. 

2) Jesus will be revealed (v7) 

When He came as a baby He was hidden in a stable.  When He comes again the whole world will see Him.  Jesus said the Father has entrusted judgment to Him.  The Jesus we need to be ready for is the judge.  Jesus when He comes will burn up the impurity in front of Him.  Look at this Jesus; He will come again in history in a blazing fire of judgment. 

3) Jesus will shut his enemies out (v8-9) 

Enemies don’t know God because they don’t obey the Gospel.  Gospel is God calling us back to know Him.  Those who don’t know Him are punished with everlasting destruction.  As the whale was made for the ocean, so we were made for God.  In His presence we enjoy life as it was meant to be.  The further away from God, the more destroyed we are. 

On the Day of Judgment those who haven’t turned back to God will be shut out from His presence forever and eternal destruction.  The punishment fits the crime.  I say I want nothing to do with God and that’s what He gives me.  This is not to frighten us but save us. 

There is a place where fire of God’s judgment has already burned out at the cross of Calvary where the judge experienced the fire of God’s judgment so we can be let into God’s presence.  Before He comes as judge, He came as Saviour. 

4) Jesus will be glorified in His people (v10) 

The life to come is the main event.  It’s where all God’s plans are heading.  The world restored to the glory He created it.  People restored to the glory He created them.  Salvation is all about being in God’s presence. 

God’s glory is God in all His brilliance.  We will see that, but we will also see His brilliance in us.  We were created to glorify Him, to reflect His brilliance.  That’s what will happen when we are re-created.  It’s in the world made new we will taste life in its fullness.  We will see how worth waiting for He is.  Look at what is coming, don’t you want to be part of that.  Stand firm in the gospel. 

Glorify Jesus today (v11-12) 

If we’re not ready for Jesus what would we say to Him?  Paul prays we’ll be counted worthy of His calling; we’d suffer for His kingdom.  What will it cost for you to get ready?  Do what it takes! 

For 4½ months, 22 men waited on Elephant Island for Ernest Shackleton to return to rescue them after their ship the Endurance sank.  Frank Wild each day encouraged the men on the island with the words: “Roll up the sleeping bags, the boss may come today”.  That’s what Paul is saying to us.  Keep going, get ready the King may come today!

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He rose to rule

Here are my notes from Tim Keller’s second talk on John 20:1-3, 10-18 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This third session focused on Jesus, He rose to rule.

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The connection between death and resurrection in John’s gospel has to do with faith.  The cross itself does not produce faith.  People looked at the cross and said God can’t bring good out of this.  But what triggered saving faith, faith in the cross, was the resurrection. 

Three marks of faith that the resurrection triggers: 

1) Faith rests in truth 

Jesus said He would rise again over and over again.  He said it so often that His enemies had heard it so they put guards next to the tomb.  You would have thought His disciples would have said: “It’s the third day, let’s have a look!” 

What evidence would your friends need to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?  See Him, touch Him, see Him eat, see Him lots of times.  This is exactly what we’ve got in the Gospels.  Jesus gave the evidence that broke through these barriers. 

If you were making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, you wouldn’t put women as the first eyewitnesses.  The reason why women were the first witnesses was because it happened that way.  Historical evidence is powerful.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true. 

2) Faith comes by grace 

All around Mary is evidence, the angels in front and the Lord behind, but she still thinks it’s a disaster.  Even if you don’t think Jesus is near you, He is.  Jesus breaks through and sends her as the first messenger.  How clear does Jesus make it that salvation is by grace.  He chooses a women not a man, a former mental health patient as the first messenger.  This salvation is as much hers as ours.  She was at the bottom of the pecking order but He chose her.  

3) Faith works through love 

Mary was grabbing hold of Jesus to never let Him go (v17).  But Jesus is saying once I’m ascended you’ll still have me.  I’m about to ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and you’ll have me.  The Spirit brings my presence in your life.  Don’t be satisfied with just the objective side.  Jesus can come into your hear now. 

Be willing to pray and meditate on His Word so you get to a place where He touches you.  Let the resurrection not only convince your mind but let you have Him.

Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by

A helpful book I’ve just finished reading is Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by.  Originally written for the London Men’s Convention a few years back, it has now been repackaged for a wider audience. 

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This book is definitely one to, as they say in the preface, be worked through in small groups “as a means of getting a hold on the truths that define who we are as followers of Christ”.

This book packs so much into every chapter.  As well as explaining and applying one of the 12 truths, there is also a short Bible study, some discussion questions, a real life story of how the truth has been used by God in a person’s life, and a brief account of someone who has contended for this doctrine in the history of the church.

The introduction is helpful because it explains why doctrine is so important, and also why these 12 truths have been selected and the relationship between each one of them.

The 12 gospel truths covered in this book are:

  • The unique supremacy of Christ
  • The depravity of sin
  • The penal substitution of Christ
  • Justification by faith alone
  • The sovereignty of God the Father
  • The regeneration of God the Holy Spirit
  • The reality of judgment
  • The priority of evangelism
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The centrality of Bible teaching
  • The importance of the local church
  • The necessity of holiness 

There are a number of reasons why I like this book:  

Firstly, it’s an easy read.  

Secondly, it gives a good overview of these important doctrines in a practical way.  For new Christians who may not be ready to delve in Grudem’s Systematic Theology, it’s a great introduction to what Christians believe.  

Thirdly, it defends the great truths of Christianity that have come under attack.  

Lastly, because of the multiple settings it could be used with: one to one discipleship, home groups, men’s groups, ladies groups, adult Sunday School, older youth group, basis for a sermon series.  I think it would also be possible to adopt this book for a series of children’s talks for church (now that’s an idea!) 

For an introduction to the doctrines of the Christian faith, you can’t get much better than this! 

Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by is available to buy HERE

Also check out the special offer on this book at 10ofthose.com HERE.

“Forgive us our sins”

“Forgive us our sins”

6 things this petition teaches us: 

  • It teaches us that we still sin every day.
  • It teaches us that we still need forgiveness every day.
  • It teaches us that we must confess our sins.
  • It teaches us that God is holy.
  • It teaches us that God is ready to forgive us every day.
  • It teaches us that God our Father wants a close walk with his children. 

(Hugh Collier, ‘Forgive us our sins’)

An incredible story – John Harper

Mark Dever tells this incredible story about John Harper in the opening chapter of ‘The Gospel and Personal Evangelism’:

“John Harper was born in a Christian home in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1872. When he was about fourteen years old, he became a Christian himself, and from that time on, he began to tell others about Christ. At seventeen years of age, he began to preach, going down the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in passionate pleading for men to be reconciled to God. 

After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by the Reverend E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London. This set Harper free to devote his whole time and energy to the work so dear to his heart-evangelism. 

Soon, in September 1896, Harper started his own church.  This church, which he began with just twenty-five members, numbered over five hundred by the time he left thirteen years later. During this time he had been both married and widowed. Before he lost his wife, God blessed Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.  

Harper’s life was an eventful one. He almost drowned several times. When he was two-and-a-half years of age, he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived. And at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. If anything, these brushes with death simply seemed to confirm John Harper in his zeal for evangelism, which marked him out for the rest of the days of his life. 

While pastoring his church in London, Harper continued his fervent and faithful evangelism. In fact, he was such a zealous evangelist that the Moody Church in Chicago asked him to come over to America for a series of meetings. He did, and they went well. A few years later, Moody Church asked him if he would come back again. And so it was that Harper boarded a ship one day with a second-class ticket at Southampton, England, for the voyage to America. 

Harper’s wife had died just a few years before, and he had with him his only child, Nana, age six. What happened after this we know mainly from two sources. One is Nana, who died in 1986 at the age of eighty. She remembered being woken up by her father a few nights into their journey. It was about midnight, and he said that the ship they were on had struck an iceberg. Harper told Nana that another ship was

just about there to rescue them, but, as a precaution, he was going to put her in a lifeboat with an older cousin, who had accompanied them. As for Harper, he would wait until the other ship arrived. 

The rest of the story is a tragedy well known. Little Nana and her cousin were saved. But the ship they were on was the Titanic. The only way we know what happened to John Harper after is because, in a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, some months later, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He explained that he had been on the Titanic the night it struck the iceberg. He had clung to a piece of floating debris in the freezing waters. “Suddenly,” he said, “a wave brought a man near, John Harper. He, too, was holding a piece of wreckage.  “He called out, ‘Man, are you saved?’ “‘No, I am not,’ I replied.

“He shouted back, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ 

“The waves bore [Harper] away, but a little later, he was washed back beside me again. ‘Are you saved now?’ he called out.  “‘No,’ I answered. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ “Then losing his hold on the wood, [Harper] sank. And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my saviour. I am John Harper’s last convert.”1 

1 Moody Adams, The Titanic’s Last Hero: Story About John Harper(Columbia, SC: Olive Press, 1997), 24-25.

Christ our Mediator

In ‘Christ our Mediator’, CJ Mahaney wonderfully takes us to the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, from His agonised prayer in the garden, to His cry of forsakenness on the cross, and helps us to meditate on its purpose – why He suffered and died, and what He achieved by doing so. 

As we approach Easter, this is a subject we should have at the forefront of our mind (in fact we should have this subject at the forefront of our mind throughout the year).  The length of the book makes it perfect to read during the Easter week to enhance our understanding, our experience, and appreciation of what Jesus has done for us.  

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CJ begins by reminding us with the help of Lloyd Jones that as we approach this subject we need to ask ‘Do I believe it?’ before we start thinking about how we feel about it.  He then takes us to the place we need to be to see this good news – our sin and God’s holiness and their incompatibility which results in our punishment, our hopelessness and our need for a mediator. 

The mediator is then introduce, as CJ explains how Christ, God’s own Son is that mediator and for those who trust in Him, the results of His mediation is we have peace with God, we no longer face condemnation from God when our life on this earth is over, and we have the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming this grace. 

We are then taken to three key events in the gospel.  

To the Garden of Gethsemane and the cup: “In this garden, our Saviour is beginning to confront as never before the ultimate and deepest agony of Calvary – an agony that will go infinitely beyond any physical aspects of His suffering.”  There Jesus pleads remove this cup: “This cup contains the full vehemence and fierceness of God’s holy wrath poured out against all sin, and we discover in Scripture that it’s intended for all of sinful humanity to drink.  It’s your cup…and mine.”  “This is what bearing our sin means to Him – utter distress of soul as He confronts total abandonment and absolute wrath from His Father on the cross, a distress and an abandonment and a rejection we cannot begin to grasp.” 

Then to the scene of crucifixion and the crowd: “Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.” 

And then to Jesus on the cross and His cry: “He cries out to God, “Why have You forsaken Me?” so that you and I will never have to make a similar cry.  He was cut off from His Father so that we can boldly say, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”.  He’s forsaken so that we might be forgiven.” 

The book closes with CJ appealing to us to preach the gospel, the good news, this grace, this love in action to ourselves daily, to make it our treasure, best and highest thought because as we do our lives can’t help but be filled with joy as we remember what Christ our Mediator has done for us.  (You can read more about this in the rest of ‘Living the Cross-Centered Life’). 

As Easter approach if you are going to read one book, why not read this one as you will be taken to the heart of how Christ has made a way for you to be intimate relationship with God.  It is definitely worth recommending this book to the young people in your church too. 

Christ our Mediator is available to buy as part of ‘Living the Cross-Centered Life’ (chapters 2-10) HERE

For more from CJ Mahaney, check out his blog HERE

You can download talks by CJ on some of the topics of this book HERE.

God’s Mighty Deeds in Genesis

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” (Psalm 150:2)

If we are to praise God for His acts of power which show His surpassing greatness we need to know what they are.  The Bible is full of God’s acts of power.  Here’s a list of some of them that are found in the book of Genesis.  (The chapter of Genesis is in the brackets).

  • God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. (1)
  • God spoke and there was light. (1)
  • God separates the waters above from the waters below. (1)
  • God separates the land from the sea. (1)
  • God brought forth vegetation – fruit bearing seeds. (1)
  • God created the sun, moon, and stars. (1)
  • God created animals for the land, sea, and sky. (1)
  • God created people in His own image. (1)
  • God gives food for people and animals to eat. (1)
  • God made everything good – not just good – very good. (1)
  • God formed man from the dust of the ground. (2)
  • God breathed into man the breath of life. (2)
  • God planted a garden in Eden for man to live. (2)
  • God made to spring up trees pleasant to the sight and good for food. (2)
  • God gave man one rule for his protection so that he could enjoy living in the garden. (2)
  • God created a woman, a helper for the man from his rib. (2)
  • God created the institution of marriage. (2)
  • God comes looking for the man and the woman after they had sinned. (3)
  • God punishes sin. (3)
  • God made garments for the man and the woman out of skins to cover their nakedness. (3)
  • God allows the human race to continue by enabling Eve to conceive and give birth to Cain. (4)
  • God accepts Abel’s (a sinner) offering. (4)
  • God warns Cain about the danger of sin. (4)
  • God punishes Cain’s sin. (4)
  • God puts a mark on Cain to protect him. (4)
  • God gives Eve another son, Seth, to replace Abel. (4)
  • God enables mankind to live extraordinary long lives. (5)
  • God took Enoch so that he did not experience death. (5)
  • God kept His promise to Adam about the punishment of death, as men die. (5)
  • God vows not to let sin and wickedness go unpunished by declaring that He will send a Flood to wipe out every living thing from the face of the earth. (6)
  • God is gracious to Noah and his family by telling him how to escape this judgment. (6)
  • God delays His judgment so that Noah has time to build an ark. (6)
  • God preserves two of every kind of animal. (7)
  • God shuts the door of the ark. (7)
  • God floods the earth as the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens opened. (7)
  • God remembers Noah and all the animals. (8)
  • God made a wind blow over the earth to remove the floodwaters. (8)
  • God closes the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens. (8)
  • God commands Noah out of the ark. (8)
  • God promises to never flood the earth again in this way again. (8)
  • God blessed Noah and his sons telling them to repopulate the earth. (9)
  • God allows people to eat meat. (9)
  • God gives the death penalty as a punishment to protect life. (9)
  • God makes a covenant with Noah and his offspring and the rest of creation that He won’t flood the earth again. (9)
  • God makes the rainbow the sign of the covenant He has made with creation. (9)
  • God allows the earth to repopulate and spread out over the face of it. (10)
  • God confuses languages at Babel. (11)
  • God dispersed people over the face of the earth. (11)
  • God calls Abram. (12)
  • God makes the promises to Abram of land, children, and blessing. (12)
  • God afflicted Pharaoh and his household with plagues. (12)
  • God protects Sarai from Pharaoh. (12)
  • God promises land to Abram’s descendants. (13)
  • God delivered Abram’s enemies into his hands. (14)
  • God promises numerous offspring to Abram. (15)
  • God promises that Abram’s descendants would be slaves for 400 years but then God would bring judgment on their oppressors and bring them out of slavery. (15)
  • God made a covenant with Abram. (15)
  • God prevents Sarai from having children. (16)
  • God promises to multiply Hagar’s offspring. (16)
  • God cares for Hagar in the wilderness. (16)
  • God changes Abram’s name to Abraham. (17)
  • God makes an everlasting covenant with Abraham. (17)
  • God gives circumcisions as the sign of the covenant. (17)
  • God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. (17)
  • God promises that Sarah will give birth to a son and lets Abraham know what the timescale of this will be. (17)
  • God appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. (18)
  • God promises Abraham a son. (18)
  • God shows Himself to be all-knowing by hearing Sarah laugh. (18)
  • God reveals to Abraham what He is going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin. (18)
  • God allows Abraham to intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah. (18)
  • God mercifully rescues Lot and his family. (19)
  • God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. (19)
  • God intervenes to stop Abimelech touch Sarah ensuring that he would not be the father of a son bon to Sarah. (20)
  • God opens and closes Abimelech’s wife and female slave’s wombs. (20)
  • God kept his promise to Abraham and Sarah by giving them a son Isaac. (21)
  • God looks after Hagar and Ishmael when they were sent away by providing a well of water. (21)
  • God provides a ram to take the place of Isaac as a burnt offering at Mount Moriah. (22)
  • God led Abraham’s servant to Rebekah. (24)
  • God provides a wife for Isaac. (24)
  • God gives Abraham the first of many descendants. (25)
  • God answers Isaac’s prayer for his wife by allowing Rebekah to conceive twins. (25)
  • God explains to Rebekah the reason for the wrestling in his womb. (25)
  • God appears to Isaac and renews with him the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac’s father. (26)
  • God is merciful to Rebekah and the Philistines by preventing them from laying with her. (26)
  • God blessed Isaac making him very wealthy. (26)
  • God makes His presence with Isaac visible to Abimelech. (26)
  • God purpose of election is seen in the blessing of Jacob the younger son. (27)
  • God reaffirms the covenant made with Abraham of many descendants through whom the earth will be blessed. (28)
  • God provides a wife(s) for Jacob. (29)
  • God opens Leah’s womb, but keeps Rachel’s barren. (29)
  • God closes Leah’s womb after she had given birth to four sons. (29)
  • God gives Jacob more children. (30)
  • God opens Leah’s womb so that she could give birth to two more sons and a daughter. (30)
  • God remembered Rachel and opens her womb. (30)
  • God blessed Laban because of Jacob. (30)
  • God appears to Laban leading to protection for Jacob and his family. (31)
  • God saw Jacob’s affliction and labour of his lands and rebuked Laban. (31)
  • God wrestles with Jacob. (32)
  • God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. (32)
  • God brought Jacob safely to Shecken. (33)
  • God directs Jacob to Bethel. (35)
  • God protects the sons of Jacob as they travelled to Bethel. (35)
  • God reaffirms the promise to Jacob that were made to Abraham and Isaac about the land.
  • God blesses Jacob with 12 sons. (35)
  • God gives many descendants to Esau. (36)
  • God gave Joseph dreams that were to be fulfilled in the future. (37)
  • God puts to death the wicked sons of Judah – Er and Onan. (38)
  • God was with Joseph causing him to succeed in Potiphar’s house. (39)
  • God blessed Potiphar’s house. (39)
  • God was with Joseph and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. (39)
  • God caused Joseph to succeed in prison. (39)
  • God gave Joseph the interpretation of the cupbearers and chief baker’s dream. (40)
  • God reveals to Pharaoh in a dream what was going to happen in the future. (41)
  • God gives Joseph the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. (41)
  • God made Joseph forget all his hardship and made him fruitful in the land of Egypt. (41)
  • God sends a famine over the earth. (41)
  • God works through the famine to bring Joseph’s brothers down to Egypt. (42-43)
  • God used the actions of Joseph’s brothers to get Joseph to Egypt in order to save many lives. (45)
  • God preserves the lives of His people through Joseph being in a place to provide for the rest of Jacob’s family. (45)
  • God, it was who sent Joseph to Egypt. (45)
  • God made Joseph lord of all Egypt. (45)
  • God tells Jacob not to be afraid to go down to Egypt. (46)
  • God promises to be with Jacob. (46)
  • God ensures that His people are in Egypt in preparation of keeping His promise that they will be slaves there. (46)
  • God was kind to Jacob (Israel) allowing Him to live to see Joseph’s two sons. (48)
  • God promises through Judah a ruler will come. (49)
  • God used the evil of Joseph’s brothers for good, to bring about the saving of many lives. (50)

Shepherding all our people

Possibly my favourite talk that I heard last year was Stuart Olyott’s talk titled ‘Shepherding all our people’ from the Banner of Truth Leicester Minister’s Conference.  He was simply outstanding on the topic of pastoral care.  I’ve posted my notes from it below.  If you can find the audio of this talk anywhere, it’s definitely worth listening to!

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Shepherding all our people 

This is an area that none of us are doing very well in.  Our response to this message is not to say “I’ve got to do better!”  That’s a good response, but it should never be our first response.  Our first response should be to say “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”  The good news is that when we do this, the Father will “[feel] compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  Our first response is ‘Father I have sinned’ and He will run and accept you. 

1. Biblical Foundations 

Two keys texts: Acts 20:28 & 1 Peter 5:2f. 

a) What does it means to shepherd? 

To look after people. 

Make sure that they are fed spiritually.  Lead them on the right track.  Keep them on the right track.  Carry the weak.  Bandage the bleeding.  Heal the ill.  Comfort the distressed.  Seek the wandering.  Protect every lamb and every sheep from all those wolves, most of which they can’t recognise. 

b) Who has to be shepherded? 

Everyone.  I have to shepherd every elder, and every elder has to shepherd me, the elders together are to shepherd those in the local church they oversee. 

c) Why do they have to be shepherded? 

Jesus Christ purchased a vast number of men and women, boys and girls, and He doesn’t intend to lose any one of them.  The Bible teaches the perseverance of the saints.  We are kept by the power of God through faith.  The principle means by which we are kept persevering is the life and ministry of the local church led by its pastors and elders.  This means the integrity of our pastoral work is key. 

d) How do they have to be shepherded? 

When did you last sit down and give serious thought to shepherding the flock? 

It’s hard work.  It’s sacrificial work.  It’s emotionally draining work.  It’s unselfish work.  It’s demanding work.  It’s work done with one eye on the future, when all this work will have been worth it. 

It’s not about laying down the rules for people, telling them what to do.  This has already been done by Jesus.  We lead the people of God by setting an example. 

For Christ’s sake we work hard, we work long, we work tenderly to look after every Christian in the church. 

2. What will all this mean in practice? 

a) You must know who is a sheep and who isn’t. 

Do they have a credible profession of faith?  Profession of faith is credible is the person has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Find out by asking them a question: Do you pray?  Why should God listen to you?  Those with a credible profession of faith will answer because of Jesus Christ and what He did for sinners.  But you won’t be able to ask that question if you don’t get close to people.  What is their attitude towards sin?  Does it distress them?  Do they have love for the brethren?  You can’t find out who is a sheep if you don’t get close to everybody. 

b) You must know each individual sheep. 

Do you know their names?  Next to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the name we love in the world the most is our own name.  Do you know where they live?  Do you know their family circumstances?  Could you go through a typical day in their lives?  Do you know what their temptations and joys are?  Do you know where they work and who they work with?  Do you know their cultural upbringing?  What language they speak at home?  Do you know what their temperament is like at home?  What their strengths and weaknesses are?  What their stage in grace is?  Their level of biblical literacy?  Doctrinal grasp?  Level of obedience?  Spiritual gifts? 

You have to get close to people and spend time with them to find these things out. 

c) You must take definite steps to make sure each sheep is looked after. 

  • Preaching 

Is your preaching accessible to all the sheep Christ has given you?  Can all your people understand it?  Is it what Al Martin called ‘Discriminatory Applicatory Preaching’?  Is your application as such that people then think that this word is for me?  A major part of pastoral work is done in the pulpit. 

  • Church 

Does your preaching teach the church what fellowship is?  Fellowship is my life wrapped up with theirs, and their life wrapped up in mine.  We need to encourage our people to understand this concept of a shared life.  Encourage people to spend time with each other.  Not all pastoral work can be done by the pastors.  Preach fellowship, live fellowship, example it. 

  • Eldership Meetings 

Do your eldership meeting start with the minutes?  A better way to start would be after a time of devotion around the Word and then prayer, to begin with the question: Is anyone causing us concern?  After this talk about the congregation in a systematic way, going down the list.  Talk about individuals, not broad categories of people.  Organise regular visiting to members.  Try and get an elder around to everyone every year.  Pray for the congregation together as elders. 

  • Yourself 

Do you pray for the sheep?  [One way to do this would be to buy a notebook, divide it into 5 sections labelled Monday to Friday.  Each section has 4 pages.  Page 1 is 1/5 of the members.  Page 2 is 1/5 of the adherers.  Page 3 is 1/5 of the church organisation.  Page 4 is own personal prayer needs.] 

Be the person of the place.  Be at the start of the different meetings that take place on the church premises.  

Necessary visits.  There are people who are ill who don’t feel comforted until you turn up.  When you hear of bereavement, stop what you’re doing and go straight to the family.  

Systematic visiting.  First time you visit, find out if they have a credible profession of faith.  Second time you visit, find out about their devotional life.  Third time you visit, find out about the serving them do or would like to do.  And so on. 

Hospitality.  Giving someone a temporary place in the family.  Have people round.  Keep an open home.  Be happy that people want to come and sit in your home. 

Be available.  Send out the right vibes all the time.  Why do pastors hide out in the vestry before the service?  Don’t you think that needs thinking about?  Welcome people in their seats.  Be around afterwards.  Sometimes don’t go to the front door, sit on the front row to chat with people. 

  • Other suggestions 

If there are a group of promising men give them training.  Create forums where people can ask questions about your teaching as you do it.  Sometimes let your pastoral visits determine what you preach. 

  • Don’t forget the thoughtful touches that show you care 

Give your complete attention to that person in front of you.  

A phone call, text, email, handwritten note.  Something that is sincere, spontaneous and short.  Spurgeon once wrote 500 of these a week. 

The pastor’s job is to love and teach, in that order!

Praying for Children

From Neil Robbie, a really helpful post on praying for children…

31 things to pray for your children/grandchildren/godchildren

  • 1 salvation Lord, grant your salvation to my children, ‘that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ (Isa 45:8, 2 Tim 2:10).
  • 2 grace and knowledge I pray that they may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
  • 3 adoption and love Grant, Lord, that my children may learn that they are loved as your adopted children and so ‘live a life of love,’ through the Spirit who dwells in them (Romans 8:15-16, Ephesians 5:2, Galatians 5:22).
  • 4 sin and righteousness I pray that my children would know that you, God, made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become your righteousness. ‘ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • 5 holiness Lord, may my children know that “just as he who called them is holy, so they should be holy in all they do (1 Pet 1:15-16)
  • 6 a love for God’s Word ” May my children grow to find your Word ‘more precious than gold, than much pure gold; and sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb’ (Psalm 19:10).
  • 7 justice and mercy God, help my children to love justice as you do and to ‘act justly’ in all they do (Psalm 11:7, Micah 6:8) and may they always ‘be merciful, as their Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).
  • 8 Unity and glory Lord God, please give my kids a spirit of unity with all believers as they follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth they may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6 )
  • 9 respect and authority (for self, others, authority) Father, grant that my children may ’show proper respect to everyone,’ as your Word commands (1 Peter 2:17a).
  • 10 biblical self-worth Help my children develop a strong self-worth as they realise they are  ‘God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus’ (Eph 2:10).
  • 11 Let love and faithfulness never leave my children,’ but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts (Proverbs 3:3).
  • 12 strength and courage May my children always ‘Be strong and courageous’ in their character and in actions (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  • 13 purity Create in them a pure heart, O God, let their purity be shown in their actions (Ps 51:10) remembering that ‘To the pure, all things are pure’ (Titus 1:15)
  • 14 patience Lord, grant that my children will be ‘patient in affliction’ (Rom 12:12)
  • 15 money and generosity Grant that my children may ‘be generous and willing to share [and so] lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age’ (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
  • 16 peace and joy May my kids be filled with ‘the joy given by the Holy Spirit.’ (1 Thess 1:6). Father, let my children ‘make every effort to do what leads to peace’ (Romans 14:19).
  • 17 May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection (Ps 25:21).
  • 18 perseverance Lord, teach my children to persevere in all they do, as they ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for them’ (Hebrews 12:1).
  • 19 Selflessness I pray, Lord, that my children will have the same attitude as Christ Jesus, ‘looking not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil 2:4-5)
  • 20 Lord, ‘as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,’ may my children ‘clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.‘ (Col 3:12).
  • 21 responsibility Grant that my children may learn responsibility, ‘for each one should carry his own load’ (Galatians 6:5).
  • 22 contentment Father, teach my children ‘the secret of being content in any and every situation; through him who gives them strength’ (Phil 4:12-13).
  • 23 faith I pray that as they focus on Christ, faith will root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith alone they may gain what you have promised to them (Luke 17:5-6, Heb 11:1-40).
  • 24 a servant heart God, please help my children develop servant hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, ‘as to the Lord, and not to men’ (Eph 6:7)
  • 25 hope May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
  • 26 hard work Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work hard at everything they do, ‘as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Col 3:23).
  • 27 a passion for God Lord, please instill in my children a soul that “follows hard after you,” a heart that clings passionately to you (Psalm 63:8).
  • 28 self-discipline Father, I pray that my children may be self-disciplined, living ‘a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair’ (Prov 1:3).
  • 29 prayerfulness Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Eph 6:18).
  • 30 gratitude and rejoicing Help my children to live lives ‘overflowing with thankfulness,’ ‘giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ as they ‘Rejoice in you always’ (Col 2:7, Eph 5:20, Phil 4:4).
  • 31 a heart for mission Lord, please help my children to develop a heart for mission, a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all peoples (Psalm 96:3).