Dad, How Do You Prayer before Meals?

Dad, do you use meal times to simply repeat a rote prayer, offering up your “duty” for God? Are meal time prayers simply a time to say the refrain, “Thank you, God for this meal…bless us now”?

I want to challenge you, Dad, to rethink your meal time prayers. It is so easy for me to slip into the “Thank you, Lord. Amen” prayer, especially if I am really hungry. That is not, however, how I can best lead my wife and daughter. Most of the spiritual instruction and formation that takes place in the home is not programmed or planned. It happens on the fly and in the mundane moments. My daughter is too young to catch what I’m praying, but as she grows to understand speech, she will begin to see that her mommy and daddy takes prayer seriously–before a meal, or any other time.

Prayer times are integral for saturating your family with the gospel. If prayer is simply a time to the usual, your kids will severely misunderstand the point of prayer. Prayer is a time of talking to our heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Meal time prayers designed by God to teach and lead your family how to feast on the goodness and beauty of the Triune God, not the food on the table.

Meal time prayers do not have to be long. In fact, your kids (and maybe your wife) will probably be angry if they are! Even a short prayer, however, can be gospel-drenched and instructive for everyone at the table. Let me suggest a few meal time prayers to say with your family.

Father in heaven, thank you for another day of your mercy. You did not have to sustain us until now, but you have and any more moments we have together will be because of your sovereign grace. We praise you for your providence in giving us food to eat. Help us glorify you in our eating and drinking by remembering this food comes from you. Remind us as good as this food is, your Son is our true soul food. Only he can satisfy us and make us whole. No amount of meat, bread, milk, or even ice cream can do that. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Father, you are glorious and good. This food reminds us that we are dependent on you, but you are dependent on no one. We must eat and drink to have energy, but your energy is self-contained and you never get tired. May we never forget our need for your constant help, whether we feel tired or not. We are thankful you have helped us most through your Son, who died to forgive the times we broke your rules and the times we have tried to keep them to earn your love. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Father, there is no one like you. Before we eat this great meal, we want to recognize that you have created every flavor, designed each smell, and assigned certain textures for this food and drink. Help us enjoy our meal and remember that you have kindly given it to us because you are good. Most importantly, would we remember that you have given us your perfect Son Jesus, who has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He gave himself on the cross so that we might join him and become your sons and daughters. In His great name, I pray. Amen.

You don’t have to pray these exact words. But you need to find your way to exalt Jesus and his good news, and do it often…even before feasting on macaroni and cheese.

Life Theology

Raising a Biblical Theologian

My work with teenagers has convinced me that one of the main reasons teenagers are not excited by the gospel is that they do not think they need it. Many parents have successfully raised self-righteous little Pharisees. When they look at themselves, they do not see a sinner in desperate need, so they are not grateful for a Savior. (Paul Tripp)

Our daughter is almost five months old. And we are raising her to be a biblical theologian. A “biblical theologian” is a technical term for a person who seeks to take individual parts of the Bible and relate them to the whole. In other words, the discipline of biblical theology is concerned with the overall story of the Bible, or the “metanarrative” for you literary experts. When we do “biblical theology,” we see God’s great story of redemption being played out on each page of Scripture: through Christ, God is redeeming a people for himself who will enjoy never-ending happiness with him in a new world.

Carly and I care deeply that Bailey does not grow up to be a self-righteous Pharisee who keeps rules because “it’s the Christian thing to do.” We desire that she (and our future kids) see Christ as the center–the Hero–of all Scripture. According to the way Jesus read the Bible, the Law of Moses and the Prophets were completed and fulfilled by him (Luke 24:44), so why would we teach her to read the Bible in a moralistic, do-this-and-God-will-smile way? 

If our baby girl grows up thinking that David or Gideon or Moses or Joseph or Ruth are characters to emulate one of two things will happen. She will either be that little Pharisee filled with pride because she’s better than her friends, or she will be a depressed failure who just can’t stack up to the moral standard. Both are dead-ends. Both are void of Christ and the redemption he provides. So we pray that in all Scripture, she sees and embraces Jesus as the one who lived the life she cannot live and died the death she deserves to die.

When Jesus is the point, the centerpiece, the rock, the cornerstone of all Scripture and Christian living, our sin gets exposed, our idols surface, our hearts melt because we see how broken we are, and we even repent of our “good” deeds done in our skewed, personal  view of righteousness. Christian parents often raise their children to believe that they are an empty cup of needs waiting to be filled by God. What we need to proclaim is that they are broken mirrors that are to reflect God’s image and need to be put back together by him alone. This only happens by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

One tool that Carly and I will use in order to raise our children to see and savor Jesus Christ as biblical theologians is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. It is beautifully written as it expounds Christ as the sum and focus of all the Bible stories Christians have historically moralized. Also, it is wonderfully and artistically illustrated. Obviously, Bailey won’t comprehend much for a few years, but in the meantime, we are building a gospel culture–not a moralistic, religious one–in our home. Adults should digest this book as well. If you have kids, get this book and learn from it, too. If you don’t have kids, buy this book for someone who does, and don’t be ashamed to read it before you put it in a gift bag.


Five Reasons We Want to Be Foster Parents

My wife wrote earlier this week that we are starting the process to become foster parents. She said, “We are both well aware of the children out there who are abused and neglected, and in need of good, loving homes who can teach them about Jesus as well as care for and protect their little hearts and minds.” I love this woman, and I love her passion for Jesus and the “least of these” in our city and world.

Why would a husband and wife in their mid to upper 20s, with a two-and-a-half month old daughter want to be foster parents? Here are five reasons:

  1. The gospel has invaded our life and Jesus reigns over us. We have tasted what God has done for us in Christ and so we cannot help but show that same grace, mercy, kindness, and love to others. Foster care will be a small, but significant way to “point” to what God has done for us: he loved us while we were unlovable, wounded, broken, and alone.
  2. We want to adopt, not just because it’s the hip thing for Christians to do, but because God, in Christ, has adopted us into his family (Hos. 14:3; Eph.1:5). This is the only reason adoption on earth exists. Foster care will serve as a prologue to adoption, but not a “trial run.” It is something we can do now while adoption is not a possible.
  3. We are commanded in Scripture to seek the welfare of widows and orphans (James 1:27; 2:14-26). We aren’t doing this to “get God on our side,” for we are already perfectly accepted by in the gospel based on Jesus’ obedience, death, and resurrection. Rather, the gospel compels us to obedience. We are called to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves (Isa. 1:17; 58:6). Foster children are some of the most underrepresented people in society. Obviously, we cannot do everything and help every foster child. But we can do something.
  4. Foster care will give us close relationship with non-Christians. We will rub shoulders with biological parents, therapists, case workers, foster care specialists, lawyers, judges, and scores of others, most of whom will not know Jesus. We will be able to share the gospel, and our biblical worldview. Furthermore, we will be able to provide spiritual insight for a child to families and professionals who regularly neglect this aspect of a person’s life, in favor of the behavioral and mental aspects.
  5. I so often preach about doing hard things for the Lord, forsaking middle class comfort in pursuit of true discipleship. This is practicing what I preach. Carly and I want to be an example to other Christians, our church, our family, and our friends of what a gospel-shaped life looks like.
I want to thank my wife, Carly, for pursuing this so gracefully and with passion, determination, and zeal. You are my crown, and beside Christ, you are the treasure of my life. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”

When you think of us, or stop by this blog, would you pray for us on this adventure? We would appreciate it.

Life Theology

5 Tips for Topical Sermons

Justin Holcomb at the Resurgence gives this advice for pastors, especially in light of a special Sunday like Mother’s Day.

Number 5 is particularly helpful:

Your role is not to serve as a host for a special moment or to be an armchair critic of where our culture has goofed on motherhood or viewing women. You are a preacher of Good News. Proclaim the person and work of Jesus and his Gospel. The grace upon grace from Jesus (John 1:16) is the most relevant and needed thing for you to communicate.


Abortion and Artemis: The Damning Desire of Lust for Wealth

FoxNews reports that a Planned Parenthood worker in Texas quit after seeing an ultrasound of a baby being aborted.  Here’s a snippet:

Abby Johnson, 29, used to escort women from their cars to the clinic in the eight years she volunteered and worked for Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. But she says she knew it was time to leave after she watched a fetus “crumple” as it was vacuumed out of a patient’s uterus in September.

The most intriguing part of this article was when Johnson described the driving force behind the clinic’s abortions:

“Every meeting that we had was, ‘We don’t have enough money, we don’t have enough money — we’ve got to keep these abortions coming’…It’s a very lucrative business and that’s why they want to increase numbers.”

Immediately, Acts 19:21-41 came to my mind.  Paul had been preaching the gospel in Ephesus, and he was preaching against the goddess Artemis, the Greek deity of hunting and fertility, who later became associated with wealth and prosperity.

Some Ephesians were angry at Paul, who “persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not god” (v. 26).  What was the driving force of their anger at Paul and zeal for this goddess?  Verses 24-25 tell us the answer:

For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.  These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.”

Just like the Ephesian silversmiths, the Planned Parenthood workers acquired their wealth from a god (i.e. abortion) they made with their own hands.  In a word, they were greedy. Greed and abortion, like Artemis, are idols.  And when the idol of greed is threatened, the result is either repentance  toward Jesus or rage, chaos, hatred, and only more idolatry and greed.

The lust for wealth is a damning desire.  Truly “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9).