Sometimes the texts that cause the most initial trouble in one’s spiritual life are the texts that later bear the most fruit. This certainly has been my experience with Hebrews 6. Shortly after I became a Christian, I was confronted with the terrifying warnings in the book of Hebrews. The sixth chapter caused the most turmoil, for I constantly feared that I could be the one who had experienced the many blessings outlined in the chapter (partaking of the Holy Spirit, tasting of God’s good Word and the powers of the age to come), but who had never actually embraced Jesus Christ. Needless to say, I was beleaguered by a lack of assurance during much of my early Christian life. Continue reading “Making Sense of Hebrews 6”
In his helpful little book, The Fulfilled Family: God’s Design for Your Home, John MacArthur provides a list of ways parents may unintentionally provoke their children to anger. MacArthur encourages parents to recognize and avoid these potential pitfalls for the good of their children and for the general happiness of their homes. He also reminds parents that their child’s anger does not necessarily indicate that the parent is guilty of provocation; but parents who are responsible for inflaming their child’s anger are doubly guilty, for “[They] [n]ot only violate their duty as parents, but they also cause their own children to stumble” (109).
So how do parents needlessly rouse their child’s anger? One way is by excessive discipline. MacArthur writes, “I have known parents who seemed to think that if discipline is good for a child, extra discipline must be even better. They constantly waved the threat of corporal punishment as if they loved it. No parent should ever be eager to punish. And no punishment should ever be brutal or bullying. Parents should always administer discipline with the good of the child in mind, never more than necessary, and always with love” (109).
Another way parents can provoke their child’s anger is by way of inconsistent discipline. Here a parent may lazily allow several infractions to go unpunished, grow frustrated, and then lash out at their children. But this kind of inconsistency will cultivate both anger and confusion in the child since they can rarely know what to expect from their parents in terms of discipline.
Parents can also aggrivate their children with unkindness—making mean-spirited comments to their son or daughter both publically and privately—and by showing favoritism toward one child against the other.
Some parents are guilty of overindulgence–giving a child everything they desire without providing any boundaries. But MacArthur comments, “Research from many different sources shows that children who are given too much autonomy feel insecure and unloved. No wonder. After all, Scripture says parents who let their children misbehave with no consequences are actually showing contempt for the child (Prov. 13:24). Children know that instinctively, and it exasperates them” (111).
The opposite of overindulgence is the tendency toward overprotection, where parents do not allow the child legitimate and age-appropriate freedom. ”That’s a sure way to provoke a child to frustration,” MacArthur avers, “make your child despair of ever having any liberty at all unless he or she rebels” (111).
Constant pressure to achieve can provoke children to anger. MacArthur warns, “If you never praise your kids when they succeed but always drive them to do even better next time if you neglect to comfort and encourage them when they fail; or, worst of all, if you force your children to try to fulfill goals you never accomplished, they will certainly resent it” (111). Although it is natural for a parent to desire their child to work hard and to excel, such desires must be balanced with patience and wisdom.
Finally, parents often provoke their children through discouragement. ”[N]eglect, constant criticism, condescension, indifference, detachment, cruelty, sanctimoniousness, hypocrisy, a lack of fairness, or deliberate humiliation” can all cause profound discouragement in children. It is no wonder why Paul instructs us in Colossians 3:21, “Father, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (emphasis original).
It is easy to forget that a significant aspect of our duty as parents is to guard our children against cultivating anger in their hearts. We help our children in this regard by not only instructing them about the dangers of bitterness, resentment, and unrighteous wrath, but by taking care how our words and actions—or lack thereof—may nurture irritation and rage rather than patience and love.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
Photo: Greg Westfall
I recently pulled John MacArthur’s The Book on Leadership off my shelf to lend to a friend. As I thumbed through the pages, rereading underlined sentences and noting my nearly illegible comments in the margins, I was convicted by one passage in particular.
In his chapter, “How to Not Be Disqualified,” MacArthur emphasizes the need for spiritual leaders to remain disciplined in order to keep their personal and public life well-ordered and free from scandal. In the latter half of the chapter, MacArthur provides eight practices he has “found to be personally helpful to develop self-discipline” (154). Out of the eight, the one I found most challenging was his exhortation to “Find Ways to Be Edified than Merely Entertained.” MacArthur comments,
When you have time for rest and relaxation, do things that feed your soul rather than your carnal appetites. Listen to tapes of good preaching. Find music that uplifts and ennobles, rather than fills your mind with vanity and foolishness. Read a good book. Develop a hobby that has real value. Have an edifying conversation with someone you love.
This is a key component of true godliness. Give your private life to God. Devote yourself especially in your leisure time to the task of cultivating humility, holiness, and the fear of God.
A man’s ministry and leadership is developed or lost in the private hours. Sin flourishes in an undisciplined life where entertainment becomes the default. And a man who fails to cultivate holiness in his time-off will never move past spiritual mediocrity. Take heed and turn off the TV.
There are tens of thousands of theological books and commentaries available today. Despite this massive selection, however, I am becoming more convinced (almost daily!) that there is no necessary correlation between number of books in our libraries and actual insight into the Bible. In fact, I am beginning to think that the more widely one reads, the confused he is liable to get.
I fear that one can fall into the trap of endless speculation, read several books, commentaries, etc. but not truly grow because he is not studying with the proper goal in mind, namely, genuine knowledge of, belief in, and obedience to the truth. Thinking is not the goal; true faith and obedience is. If that is not our goal, we are likely to not learn much (or think well). Martin Luther, the great reformer, observed,
The number of theological books should…be reduced, and a selection should be made of the best of them, for many books does not make men learned nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides (quoted in The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, by John Piper, 95).
With that in mind I would say that the MacArthur Bible Commentary (MBC) is one of those books that deserve a spot in our libraries. The introduction reads,
This one-volume commentary on the whole Bible is in itself a mini-library which will be especially advantageous to those with financial and/or space limitations…Everyone from new believers to pastors can benefit from this study tool. Its purpose and design are to make the precious truths of Scripture understandable and consequently obeyed by the people of God (v.)
I love the last sentence. The purpose of the book is to make the truth of Scripture understandable so that it can be obeyed by God’s people. That’s the goal! The point of study is certainly not merely to study much, or read much, or constantly speculate. The point of study is to understand God’s truth in order to worship and obey; to become more and more competent in knowing and handling the Scripture, not less and less; to grow more confident of God’s Word, not more confused.
The MBC gives clear, straightforward, conservative interpretations into the Scripture on every book of the Bible. Each book is prefaced with a concise introduction that provides the reader with author, date, background and theological theme information, as well as an outline for that specific book. Each section of Scripture (Law, History, Writings, Prophets, etc.) is prefaced by an introduction on that particular section. This can give the reader a real clarity of understanding the overall flow of books, sections and testaments in just a little bit of reading. There are also numerous charts, maps, key-word studies strewn throughout the MBC in order to enhance one’s study. Also, at the end of each Bible book, the MBC provides the reader with three books that would helpful for further study on that book.
The MBC is an excellent resource that will provide the reader with more clarity into the Scripture, not more confusion. It has been written and edited by a man who has been characterized by a deep commitment to and a clear presentation of the truth of God’s Word throughout his 35 years as a pastor and teacher. Personally, I have benefited from the MBC as I prepared to take my middle school students through a nine week survey of the Old Testament. I made a practice of reading the introductory section of many of the OT books during this time and was greatly helped by the clear, concise summaries of the books and of the OT itself. May it help you in the same way!
I think a lot about leadership. One, because I recently was married and I desire to know how to lead my wife in a Christlike, God-honoring way; and two, my job as youth pastor requires that I know something about leadership since I am, well, the leader. Interestingly, however, I didn’t actually plan to immerse myself in leadership material. It just kind of happened. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be more disciplined. I supposed to write a thorough list of books that I want to read, separate them by category, and then begin a carefully planned reading regiment. And to be honest, I LOVE stuff like that: the whole planning, organizing, separating by category thing, (just ask my good friend Bobby) but this time, it just, like I said, kind of happened.
First, my mom got me The Book on Leadership by John MacArthur. It was my birthday, we were at the local Christian book store and, well, I like Johnny Mac. I was sure that I would get some good, solid, Biblical help from my former pastor. And I was right. MacArthur takes the reader through significant events in the life of Paul, beginning in Acts 27 and continuing into II Corinthians, providing insight into Paul’s leadership ability and personal character as it is demonstrated in his dealings with pagan sailors, false teachers, and immature Christians.
He also takes a short detour towards the beginning of the book to look into the life of Nehemiah in order to glean some wisdom from Nehemiah’s effort to rebuild the wall. The end result is an extremely practical, Biblically saturated guide into true leadership. From the life of Paul and Nehemiah, MacArthur derives 26 characteristics of a true leader. Especially helpful is an appendix on page 209 which provides the list of the 26 characteristics in the order in which they appear in the book.
Another very helpful portion of this book is where MacArthur elaborates on the principle that a “Leader is disciplined” (147). On pages 152 through 157, MacArthur gives eight specific, practical ways in which a person can discipline himself or herself: Get organized; use time wisely; find ways to be edified rather than merely entertained; pay attention to small things; accept extra responsibility; once you start something, finish it; keep your commitments and tell yourself no from time to time.
Overall, the book is extremely helpful and practical and will be very encouraging for those who desire to be true leaders. I highly recommend it!