It has been said that a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
An arrogant negativity, as it were.
There are also other characteristics that define cynicism, such as a lack of trust, lack of grace, ungrateful, arrogant, bitter, jaded, hopeless, skeptical, pessimistic, etc. I could go on giving words that describe the cynic, and paint word pictures for you that you potentially would be all too familiar with, as I’m sure you have your own pictures that arise when you think of the Cynic in your life — maybe you see yourself.
I think though — and I could be wrong here — that the route of cynicism is mere brokenness. The cynical man has been jaded by life’s circumstances. His positive outlook on life has been chipped away at over the years by failed relationships, unmet expectations, and unforeseen events. People have hurt him along the way. Things have happened in his life that have all but crushed him. He is not even close to the success he hoped to achieve when he was younger. His mistakes are piled as high as his regrets. He now views the world through a foggy lens of negativity, and he’s absolutely certain — or hopeless — that it will always be this way. For this type of man, things will never change. He is hurting. He is indeed broken. He feels cursed.
He needs a King.
In reality, cynicism is idolatry. It’s a displacement of God for yourself. It’s a response to the circumstances of life where you are the center of everything. The cynic has a view of man, events, or the future that denies God’s goodness, sovereignty, grace, and power. Again, he may not speak this way in his theology, but he lives this way in his heart.
Allow me to explain myself.
The gospel shows me that I am a broken man. Without Christ, I am nothing. The cynic, however, is a pretender. He knows this to be true in his mind, but this truth is not being watered in his heart. Or maybe, it can no longer be watered. His heart has been hardened by his experiences. This man’s experiences has led to his brokenness. The gospel, however, shows us that we are and have always been broken apart from Christ.
The cynic needs a fresh or new reality to take place in his life. He needs to be reminded — like we all do — that brokenness is not a state that we “arrive at” because of the circumstances in this world. We are broken. He have always been that way.
Our hope must forever and always be grounded in the King. It is King Jesus who takes our brokenness and fills it with hope — a hope that transcends the circumstances, events, and relationships of this world. In fact, when Christ becomes the King of our world, our circumstances, events, and relationships are seen with a new perspective. A fresh perspective. A redeemed perspective.
After all, it was Jesus who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
This is what the cynic needs.
Rest. Restoration. Redemption. Newness. A King.
When we realize and embrace Christ’s Kingship over our lives, then we come to understand that our lives are not our own. We have been bought with a great price (1 Cor. 6:20). When we realize this, our cynic minds become humble, gentle, tender, and hopeful minds.
Cynic, I encourage you to trust in that truth. Believe in that truth. Hope in that truth.
After all, to hope in the hope of this world is no hope at all.
This post first appeared at CBMW and is posted here with their permission.
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Right now my daughter Maddy doesn’t see the beauty of the storm. She is afraid of thunder and lightning. She could be dead asleep and, within minutes of the first crash of thunder, she’s awake, alert, and calling for mommy or daddy. Her fear has come into focus this summer because in South Carolina, we’ve had a flood of rain this year.
When these quick storms first began, I found myself comforting my daughter by saying something like, “Don’t worry. God created the thunder and you don’t have anything to worry about.”
It’s true that she doesn’t have much to worry about in our home when it’s thundering and lightning outside, but the more I thought about the way I approached this situation, the more I realized that I was comforting my children in this way a lot of the time. I was taking the easy way out, promising comfort in exchange for tears.
Then it hit me. The gospel I was rehearsing to them was a health and wealth gospel, a skewed view of God’s sovereignty in pain and suffering.
“God loves you, so nothing bad will happen.”
“You don’t need to worry about living in a fallen world if you just have enough faith.”
“The reality of suffering will never touch you.”
If we preach this kind of gospel to our children now, how will they respond when sin touches their life? How will they respond when they see death ravage a loved one? How will they respond when they are ridiculed by their peers?
We do serve the God who created all things with the power of his word. He does providentially control all of creation. He does sovereignly work things for our good in Christ. But sometimes that means we will suffer. My children need to know this.
As I talked to friends with children and also recalled interactions, I’ve heard between parents and kids, I don’t think this approach is uncommon. As I said, it’s easy. It doesn’t require us to engage in hard conversations. But I want to offer a gospel-motivated, gospel-driven alternative for us as parents. Here are four ways that we can avoid health and wealth parenting.
1. Teach Our Children to Rest in the Love and Sovereignty of God
First, we must urge our children to trust the God who loves us and is sovereign over everything. We must not downplay these truths. They are not in opposition; rather they fit together like a puzzle. The sovereignty of God is not a hammer. It’s a pillow and blanket. The most fearful thing I can think of is living in a world where God is not in control, where he is taken by surprise, where he loves us but is powerless over our suffering.
The love of God is not squishy like a jellyfish. He doesn’t love us in a way that’s not tangible. He loves us in the form of Jesus Christ. God sent his own Son to die for us while we were yet sinners. If God uses “the hands of lawless men” who would crucify Jesus, for his “definite plan” (Acts 2:23), he will use our suffering in his plan as well. These two truths are bound together eternally. You will not find God’s love expressed outside of his sovereign control. Our kids must see that God’s sovereignty is never expressed outside of his love.
2. Teach our Children to Pursue Jesus
Second, we must urge our children to steadfastly pursue Jesus. Jesus is their only hope. They have no other. If they pursue health, it will fail. If they pursue wealth, it will destroy them. If they pursue relationships, they will be let down. If they pursue fame, it bring them low. These are all things that when sought lead to destruction. But Jesus does not fail. He does not destroy. He does not let down. He does not bring low. He exalts.
If you teach your children to pursue to Jesus, they will lack nothing. He is pleasures forevermore. The loss of everything compared to gaining Jesus will in the end seem light and momentary. That can be hard to fathom now, but it will not be hard when our King returns.
Not only does he provide joy and hope in the midst of suffering, he also suffers alongside of us. He obeyed the law perfectly. He loved well. He lived life to its fullest. And he also suffered. Because of that, he knows what suffering feels like (Heb. 2:18). That’s important. You can also see how Jesus cares for others who suffer when he comforts Mary and Martha when Lazarus dies (John 11:1-45). He is genuinely sorrowful. He mourns with them. He is moved to tears by the suffering of his friends. We can expect Christ to have the same compassion with us. When pursued, Jesus provides joy and hope and he does so experientially.
3. Rehearse the Gospel through Tough Conversations
Third, we must rehearse the gospel through tough conversations. My oldest daughter Claire has often asked me, “Will you get old and die?” It’s odd that a child would think about death, but it is a reality in our world. Everyone dies. It would be easy to brush off her question and respond with something like, “Dad will never leave you. Don’t worry about that.” It’s a lot more beneficial to speak age appropriately and candidly. Something like, “Daddy will die someday. Death isn’t the way it should be. But you know something? We belong to God in life and death. He has promised to be faithful all the way until the end. Just like he’s faithful to me, he’ll be faithful to you. No matter what.”
Tough conversations are an opportunity to rehearse the gospel with our children. These are practice runs. These truths aren’t dusty. Everyone will meet circumstances where only the gospel makes sense of life. Rehearsing the gospel by having tough conversation prepares our children to respond well when those times come.
Athletes practice and practice and practice more to create muscle memory. They want to repeat their route, the play, or the motion so many times that when game time comes their bodies react instinctively. That’s gospel rehearsal. It’s spiritual muscle memory. We repeat the promises of God. We point them to Jesus Christ. We sear Scripture into their hearts. We teach them how to pray. These kinds of conversations may raise more questions. That’s okay. Without being candid with them, when “the sea billows roll,” our children may falter. With tough conversations rooted in gospel rehearsal, they will see the other side.
4. Respond Well When Suffering Comes
Finally, we must respond well when suffering comes. It will arise in some form or another. Some of us may fight cancer. Some of us might grieve over the death of a loved one. Some of us might fight against abuse. Some of us might feel the weight of injustice. Some of us might be killed. We shouldn’t downplay suffering. It’s a result of the Fall. But God will wipe away all tears and make all things new when he returns. We must stomp our feet, mourn, and be righteously angry over the sin and suffering that we experience in this world. But we must do this with Jesus Christ in view. We must suffer well.
We respond well because we are in Christ. He is our Head and we are his body. He is our trailblazer. The cross is beautiful because it absorbs our sin and suffering. When we sin against others, we can boldly repent, because Jesus bears the weight of our sins. We can also forgive others for the same reason. The same goes for suffering. It is not escapism. Or cheap grace. It is weighty grace. It is grace anchored in the bloody wounds of Jesus. We must respond well when we suffer so that our children know we take God at His word and the gospel is deadly serious to us. Our kids will see this, and through it they will see Jesus.
So let’s not promise our kids health and wealth. Let’s promise them Jesus Christ in life and death. Let’s promise them a God who is faithful through anything they may experience in this fallen world.
This post first appeared at GCD and is posted here with their permission.
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This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of this series is to help you grow in the grace of God while you are preparing for, while you are attending and after you graduate from seminary.
So you finished seminary…finally. Right? That’s the way you feel. You just set aside grueling years of rigorous study for your future ministry. You’ll look back upon those years with an incredible sense of gratitude and relief. But don’t check your brain at the doorway into your ministry vocation and don’t be a stranger to your Alma Mata. Here are a few things to consider post-seminary.
1. Keep Studying
Never stop studying. That is a key component to the makeup of a called minister of the gospel. I’m reading Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry this week. In part one Bridges discusses the preparation for ministry. From the get go he puts the importance of general study as a priority of every minister, and rightly so. Pastors should devote time to the study of Scriptures and to the applying of that study into the lives of their people. I love Charles Bridge’s extensive quotation of Quensel at the end of this section:
“Not to read or study at all is to tempt God: to do nothing but study, is to forget the Ministry: to study, only to glory in one’s knowledge, is a shameful vanity: to study, in search of the means to flatter sinners, a deplorable prevarication: but to store one’s mind with the knowledge proper to the saints by study and by prayer, and to diffuse the knowledge in solid instructions and practical exhortations, — this is to be a prudent, zealous, and laborious Minister” (50)
As Quensel says, there is a right motive and order to a pastor’s studies. But he must continue to study. His flock relies on him weekly to provide spiritual food in the pulpit. This does not come through winging it. I’m afraid too many pastors do so by relying on podcasts and other means to “entertain” their congregation.
Please, recent seminary graduates: I plead with you – keep studying! Read classic literature. Culturally exegete contemporary culture. Read important popular level Christian works. Dabble in the reading of old dead dudes. Maintain your understanding of the Old and New Testament’s original languages, moreover, expand your knowledge of them.
You might be surprised to discover that your seminary so believes in the importance of your continued studies that they will provide free resources for you. I graduated from Dallas Seminary and every graduate from there has free access to all of DTS’s online course videos and access to ATLA, which is a major database of academic journals. These two resources have proven to be extremely valuable to my ongoing edification. I bet your seminary has free resources at your disposal too.
The people you shepherd, your family, and yourself will all profit from this exercise of continuing your studies.
2. Stay Connected
You don’t just want to keep studying; you want to stay connected to your seminary.
Try to visit it if you’re ever traveling through your seminary’s city. I grew up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, so we’re always visiting that area to see family. Every time we do, we stop on campus at DTS and visit folks in Administration, Admissions, and we definitely check out the bookstore. Part of this experience is sharing with our children about how wonderful your time in seminary was. Maybe they’ll catch the vision too!
Also, if your seminary is coming to you for the purpose of admissions, see how you can help. Come to a luncheon and share with prospective students about your experience. I did this once at OSU in Stillwater when I pastored in Tulsa. It was a great experience for me to meet OSU students who were processing their internal call to ministry.
And if you are the Sr. Pastor of a church or in another pastoral role, look to see how your church can support the mission of your seminary. Maybe your church can host an extension campus or your church can give to the school. Maybe your church can be an internship site for the seminary. There are tons of ways to play a role.
Whatever you do, don’t just drop off the planet. Keep your Alumni information up to date in your seminary’s database and let them know what’s going on with your family and ministry.
Besides continuing your studies and staying connected, you want seminary to be a reproducible experience for others: not for the sake of your school but for the sake of the gospel. If the gospel is to spread to all nations and peoples, then men must be trained to carry out that commission.
Paul is one who saw the significance of this. He identified men like Titus and Timothy (Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:3). He set them apart for pastoral ministry along with other elders and commissioned them to do gospel work (1 Tim. 4:14). You likewise should aspire to that mission.
Look for men in your ministry who indicate a gifting for the ministry. Help them discern their internal call to ministry and do what you can to externally affirm that call (2 Tim. 1:6). Meet with them regularly. Develop an internship program that prepares men for seminary and pastoral ministry. Scholarship those individuals and keep a vested interest in their piety while they are in their studies. Too few seminarians are being shepherded by a pastor and every one of them should have a pastor who is taking a serious interest in them as a spiritual father (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). O to return to the days of Pastoral Assistants. That’s something that I look forward to having in my pastoral ministry, men who assist and in turn are prepared to be sent out.
If you are pastoring a church, then you especially need to have a keen eye for those who are called (2 Tim. 2:2). Sometimes a guy is waiting to be told that he possesses gifts and skills that are fitting for pastoral ministry. Then before you know it you have a man who is set on fire by God for God to preach the gospel. It’s wonderful to behold. Someone will one day fill the pulpit that you currently fill. Why not play a role in identifying, training, and preparing that person?
No doubt seminary was a wonderful experience for you. After seminary is over keep fanning the flame of that experience in your heart by continuing your studies, staying connected and reproducing it with others.
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