“The Duties of Parents” by J.C. Ryle and Free Download

All Christian parents need biblical, helpful reminders of what their responsibilities are to their children.  I have been so encouraged and challenged by The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle that I am quoting Ryle’s first 3 points below.  If I hear they are helpful, I may quote more portions in the future.  Here’s the great news: the entire 38 page booklet is available in a free PDF or Kindle dowload here (if you would rather have the published booklet for less than $5, click here).

1) First, then, if you would train your children rightly, train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would.

Remember children are born with a decided bias towards evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong.

The mother cannot tell what her tender infant may grow up to be–tall or short, weak or strong, wise or foolish: he may be any of these things or not–it is all uncertain.  But one thing the mother can say with certainty: he will have a corrupt and sinful heart.  It is natural to us to do wrong.  “Foolishness,” says Solomon, “is bound in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15).  “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 24:15).  Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds…

If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further.  Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.

2) Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience.

I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that you should let him see that you love him.

Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct.  Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys–these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily–these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart.

Few are to be found, even among grown-up people, who are not more easy to draw than to drive.  There is that in all our minds which rises in arms against compulsion; we set up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a forced obedience.  We are like young horses in the hand of a breaker: handle them kindly, and make much of them, and by and by you may guide them with thread; use them roughly and violently, and it will be many a month before you get the mastery of them at all…

3)  Train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends on you.

…this is one of God’s merciful arrangements.  He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay.  He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s.  He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good…

Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen–that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still.  These persons have wishes for their children in Balaam’s fashion–they would like them to die the death of the righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his life.  They desire much, and have nothing.  And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.

I know that you cannot convert your child.  I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God.  But I know also that God says expressly, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” and that he never laid a command on man which He would not give man grace to perform.  And I know, too, that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey.  It is just in the going forward that God will meet us.  The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing…

A Reminder as School Begins…The Husband and Father’s Responsibilities: A Quote from Jonathan Edwards

As school is now in full swing, I want to share this Jonathan Edwards quote that is a timely thought on a husband’s and father’s responsibilities (moms, don’t miss the second part of the quote regarding raising your children!).

…the person in your house that claims your first and nearest attention, is, undoubtedly, your wife; seeing you are to love her, even as Christ hath loved the Church. . . . Next to your wife are your children; immortal spirits whom God hath, for a time, entrusted to your care, that you may train them up in all holiness, and fit them for the enjoyment of God in eternity. This is a glorious and important trust; seeing one soul is of more value than all the world beside. Every child, therefore, you are to watch over with the utmost care, that, when you are called to give an account of each to the Father of spirits, you may give your accounts with joy and not with grief.
Jonathan Edwards

[HT: Family Ministry Today]

I recently met a man at a car wash who saw my young children in my car and told me, “Love your wife.  Don’t forget to love your wife.  It is best for your children, best for her, and best for you.”  This was a 2-minute interaction that we had, but with tears in his eyes he shared that he lost his influence with his children as well as most of his monthly paycheck because he did not love his wife.  Both Jonathan Edwards (knowingly) and the man at the car wash (unknowingly) are echoing the theme of Ephesians 5:25 & 6:4.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

An Open Letter to Immanuel Bible Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What a joy to write to you and thank you for welcoming my family and I as we moved to Bellingham just over a week ago for me to be the Pastor of Family Ministries!  It is not an overstatement to say that we are thrilled to be here and overwhelmed at your kindness and welcoming spirit that you have shown us.  The LORD declares in Isaiah 46:9b-10, “…I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.'”  Our good and gracious God had us praying for our future home church for about as long as you were praying for us, without knowing who each other were.  We have slowly seen the outworking of His providence in so clearly bringing us to Immanuel and now that we are here we are rejoicing in being able to serve Him here.

The question that I have been asking consistently for over a month now and that I am asking the elders, staff, and ministry leaders in thinking through Family Ministry at Immanuel Bible Church is, “How can we better serve the families of Immanuel and the community for God’s glory and their good?”  I firmly believe in and support Immanuel’s vision for ministry to children, teens, and parents: “Ministry at IBC to children, teens, and parents exists to glorify God in all of life by faith working through love.”  How kind of the Lord that I get to work towards this great end with you!

For the sake of the Gospel,
Tim Counts

The Humbling Beauty of the Body of Christ

The link below is this weeks’ newsletter from our new church home, Immanuel Bible Church. I just wanted to take a few minutes in the midst of unpacking boxes to think of the humbling beauty of the Body of Christ. I say humbling because we know we are unworthy of any of this, and yet people have served us in so many ways as they do it as unto the Lord. We are excited to begin soon serving the Lord through serving them. From friends in Southern California through our Home Bible Study and Juniors Ministry that packed up our truck in just over 2 hours, to Bryan and Lee flying to Southern California and driving our moving truck for over 24 hours, to the warm welcome when we first stepped into our new home, we have been eyewitnesses and recipients of the beauty of the Body of Christ. Will you praise Him with us for His goodness and grace, and pray for a long, faithful, and fruitful ministry at Immanuel Bible Church?

Immanuel Bible Church Weekly Newsletter.

How Crucial is Youth and Family Ministry?

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I was encouraged again in how crucial Youth and Family Ministry is when I recently saw some shocking statistics.  In a 2009 poll of one thousand people in their twenties who used to attend Bible-believing churches but who no longer attend, a whopping 40% of those who don’t believe first started to have doubts in middle school, and 44% first had doubts in high school.  This is in contrast to only 4% who began to doubt in elementary school, and only 11% in college (Answers Magazine, July-Sept. 2011, 124).

In the same issue of Answers Magazine, Al Mohler gives some analysis and remedy worth considering:

…Kids are spending a very small amount of time in church activities, and many of those activities have very little theological, biblical, or spiritual content.  As a result, we have a generation of young people who believe that there is a God, but they don’t have any particular god in mind…

When asked, “What steps can the church take to do better?”  He explains:

Focus on expository preaching, and teach how to think biblically.  The pulpit has to take responsibility.  In far too many churches there is just no expository preaching [teaching that expounds on a particular text of Scripture].  There isn’t the robust biblical preaching that sets forth the Word of God and then explains how the people of God have to think differently and live differently to be faithful to that Word.

Show the seriousness of church, including personal accountability.  The local church must be a robust gospel people.  It must be a warm fellowship of believers.  It must be a fellowship of believers who are really living out holiness and faithfulness to Christ, and being mutually accountable for that.

Otherwise, our kids will get the message: “You talk a lot about sin, but it’s really not all that important to you.”  Or they will think the gospel is simply about moralism.

Give answers about current issues.  We’re not giving our kids adequate information on some very crucial issues.  [Think about] the questions the average teenager faces…

Explain how the gospel is unfolding through real history.  …The Christian faith, the Christian truth claim, the gospel, is first of all a master narrative–a true story–about life, about God’s purpose to bring glory to Himself.  It has four major movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation…If we don’t anchor our children in that story, if they think that Christianity is merely a bunch of stuff to believe, if they don’t find their identity in that–in which they say, ‘Yes, that’s my story.  This is where I am.”  Then they are going to fall away.

Mohler was asked next, “What are parents doing wrong?”  His answer is a timely reminder for those who have teens as well as those of us who have small children:

We’ve got to start treating young people as a mission field, not just assuming that mere nurture will lead them into Christian discipleship and into Christian faith.

Parents need to take a big responsibility here.  The one thing we know from the entirety of Scripture is that parents have the non-negotiable responsibility to train, educate, nurture their own children into the faith, to confront them with biblical truth, to ground them in the Scriptures.

We also have, on the part of many Christian parents, a buy-in to a new secular understanding of parenthood.  We are letting our children make big decisions far too early.  So, when you have a 14-year-old, 15-, 16-, 17-year-old, making decisions about whether he or she is going to participate in church activities, be at church…that’s a child who is making decisions that should be made for him or her.

What steps can parents take to do better?

Teach God’s Word all the time, in everyday life.  This is not something that you can do once a day, once a week, and say that’s done.  That’s why I go back to Deuteronomy 6.  It is a constant teaching opportunity.

I don’t mean a piece of chalk and a blackboard.  I mean the kind of opportunity that comes from having seen something together and saying, “All right, how do we figure that out?  What does that mean?” [i.e. watching a movie, reading the same book, talking about the news]

Help adolescents think through the big questions.  Adolescence is the crucial point.  For the first time they’re beginning to think about the big questions of life.  When the lights go out at night, they’re trying to figure out, do I really know the meaning of life?  Do I really know who I am?  At that stage, don’t be afraid if your kid is asking questions … don’t be afraid to say, “I know there is a good answer for that.  But I’m not sure right now I’m prepared to give the right answer for that.  So we’re going to go find it together.”

(Al Mohler quotes are from Answers Magazine, July-Sept. 2011, 127-129).

I am so excited about Family Ministry because during this crucial stage of life, the church and parents both have the opportunity to make life-long disciples of Jesus as they consistently teach and apply God’s Word.  This God-ordained partnership of the church and parents is for the good of teens and the glory of God!

Sermon: The Great Exchange, 2 Corinthians 5:21

Second Corinthians 5:21 has long been a favorite verse of mine: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  This passage became more and more beloved to me the longer I studied and meditated on it.  I will never get over this and I pray that you won’t either.  Christ actually took our sin (if you are saved, if you are in Christ) and gave us His righteousness!  My favorite point right now from this sermon is “The Sinner’s Standing.”  The fact that God actually sees me before Him clothed in the righteousness of Christ is unbelievable and one of many reasons that He is worthy of all of our worship, praise, and to live our lives for Him.  One of the main reasons that Christ died on the cross was “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Sermon Preached July 1, 2012 candidating at Immanuel Bible Church in Bellingham, WA for Pastor of Family Ministries.

About

Welcome! My name is Tim Counts and I am married to my beautiful wife Melanie, father of two sons and a daughter, the Pastor at Northshire Baptist Church in Manchester Center, Vermont, and a writer.  I serve on the Board of Directors for the Baptist Convention of New England and the Leadership Team for Small Town Summits (a ministry affiliated with The Gospel Coalition New England).

You may contact me below about writing or speaking, or just to say hello:

The name of my blog is “He Must Become Greater” which is from John 3:30, “He [Christ] must become greater, I must become less.”  My goal is to glorify God as much as possible in life by making much of Christ.  I hope that God will be more glorified by the devotional and pastoral thoughts on this blog.  Thanks for stopping by!

In addition to the articles and posts on this blog, I am a contributor to LifeWay’s HomeLife magazine, LifeWay’s Open Windows devotional magazine, and a devotional written by New England pastors, Awakening Hearts. As you browse my articles, you will see that some have been featured at places such as Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, 9Marks, The Master’s Seminary blog, For the Church, Lifeway, the Baptist Convention of New England blog, the Family Research Council, and several newspapers including our local and also largest state newspaper.

I served as a pastor in Washington state and New Mexico before coming to Northshire Baptist Church in Vermont.  I am thankful for my time at The Master’s Seminary, where I received my M.Div.  I am passionate about preaching God’s Word expositorily, verse-by-verse, because I know that the Holy Spirit uses the inspired Word of God to bring salvation and growth in Christ-likeness.  I love to see the power of the gospel at work as people come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord, and also as believers grow in their understanding of how the gospel affects their daily lives.

Sickness

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Almost 3 years ago I was forced to think about sickness in a much deeper way than I ever had before.  As a 30 year old I began to suffer from a condition rare for men my age that first sent me to the emergency room, gave me pain every day for well over a year, other medical issues & infections, forced me to purchase expensive medication to experience some relief, and that although not life threatening, could be something I will have to deal with the rest of my life.  God was gracious to me.  I found a cheap herb that takes away 90% of the symptoms for now. I realize that some reading this may be walking through deep, dark valleys of sickness, some life threatening. I don’t share this to compare, but rather thinking of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” May the Lord Himself encourage and comfort you. I found great comfort from God meditating on the twin truths that He is sovereign and good. If you are not passing through sickness now, remember that until Heaven our bodies are in a sin cursed world and you must be ready.

J.C. Ryle wrote a booklet entitled “Sickness” that I would encourage you to read for its’ helpfulness. There are 3 special duties associated with sickness that he writes about:

1) One supreme duty which the prevalence of sickness places on us is that of living always prepared to meet God. Sickness is a reminder of death. Death is the door through which we must all pass to judgement. Judgement is the time when we must at last see God face to face. Surely the first lesson which the inhabitant of a sick and dying world should learn, should be to prepare to meet their God.

2) Another supreme duty which the prevalence of sickness requires of us, is that of always being ready to bear it patiently. Sickness is no doubt a trying thing to flesh and blood. To feel our nerves unstrung, and our natural energy reduced, to be obliged to sit still and be cut off from all our usual activities, to see our plans broken off and our purposes disappointed, to endure long hours, and days, and nights of weariness and pain–all this is a severe strain on poor sinful human nature. What wonder if bad temper and impatience are brought out by disease! Surely in such a dying world as this we should study patience.

How shall we learn to bear sickness patiently, when sickness comes to our turn? We must lay up stores of grace in the time of health. We must seek for the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit over our unruly moods and attitudes. We must make a real business of our prayers, and regularly ask for strength to endure God’s will as well as to do it. Such strength is to be had for the asking: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14)

…Never do these graces [the fruit of the Spirit] shine so brightly as in the sick room. They enable many a sick person to preach a silent sermon, which those around him never forget…

3) One more supreme duty which sickness places on us, is that of always being ready to feel with and help your fellow men. Sickness is never very far from us…But wherever there is sickness, there is a call to duty. A little timely assistance in some cases, a kindly visit in others, a friendly enquiry, a mere expression of sympathy, may do a vast good…These things, I dare say, may appear to some people little and trifling. They would rather be doing something great, and grand, and striking, and heroic! But conscientious attention to these little acts of brotherly kindness is one of the clearest evidences of having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). They are acts in which our blessed Master himself was abundant. “He went about doing good” to the sick and sorrowful (Acts 10:38). They are acts to which he attaches great importance in the most solemn passage of Scripture, the description of the last judgement. He says there: “I was sick and you visited me” (Matt 25:36).

Why I Am Glad I Took My Son With Me to the Mechanic

I could tell you about so many times that I have not been as patient as I should as a parent, or times that I have had to ask my son forgiveness for getting angry, but today I don’t think that would be very edifying for you.  But I would like to tell you about a recent trip to the mechanic with my son that God turned into a Gospel moment.  I hope that this may encourage you to pursue more of these types of opportunities with your children.

I almost didn’t bring my son with me to the mechanic this week because I had some studying to do, but I realized that he needed to get out of the apartment and that it would be good to have some time together, so I brought him along.  We had a great time.  He got to watch a few kids’ shows while we were waiting, I got a little studying done, we bought a bag of chips from the man that pushes the little cart down the street, and we talked about the area as we walked around a bit.

After spending 3 1/2 hours together, we were sitting outside on a bench waiting for the car to pull out of the shop when for some reason he asked me to tell him the story “about your fish that you used to carry around in a bottle.”  So I told him the story of my pet goldfish that I brought back from Israel again, but I was sure to make it dramatic since we had time.  At the end of the story Tobias asked, “And then he died?”  I told him that the goldfish did die about a year after he came with me on the airplane from Israel.  I explained to him that goldfish don’t live as long as cats, knowing that he was thinking of our pet cat that recently passed away.  “I guess everything dies,” Tobias concluded.

For the next three minutes, my four and a half year old listened intently as I explained to him as simply as I could that although everything dies, Jesus died so that everything can be made new.  And that we can live after we die–live eternally.  He even listened closely as I explained briefly about sin, repentance and asking Christ to save us.  I would have missed that Gospel moment if I had not brought Tobias with me to the mechanic.  Although he does listen and probably catches more than we think when we are purposefully teaching him about the Bible, his ears were especially open that day because it was something that he was thinking and asking about as we went through our day together.  The Bible and the Gospel were connecting with his life.

I am thankful that the Lord gave me that Gospel moment with Tobias that day.  As parents we need to be actively looking for those opportunities.  Sometimes we teach and teach our kids and make sure they are in Sunday School, but we also need to be looking more for those teachable moments that God naturally gives us which is when we often get a “window into their soul.”  Another way of saying this is shepherding their hearts, all day.  This is what God commanded the Israelite parents in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, a principle that is just as much of a command for us with our children today: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Moms, be encouraged because statistically speaking you probably get more of these everyday Gospel opportunities.  Look for them, and use them to teach your kids about God and the Gospel.  Dads, are you spending enough time with your kids so that you have these opportunities?  Take advantage of every one of them, even if it is because you took your child to the mechanic.

Calling All Husbands

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“Is marriage really hard?” the young man asked me with big eyes when he found out I had been married for over 8 years.  He was engaged and had friends telling him to not get married because it was too hard.  This has played out not once but 3 times, and not in a pastor’s office but at my register in the cell phone store I work at.  The fact that a man would ask a stranger selling him a phone about marriage shows me how much some men want to make marriage work even though the culture tells them it won’t.

As a Christian, God has laid out clear principles in His Word that He expects you to live out in your own marriage. It’s not just a matter of making your marriage work or making it better, but also a matter of obedience. Of course, when you follow God’s commands, then you invite God’s blessing on your marriage as well. These are all areas that I have had to change and grow a lot in over the last several years in particular. I always see a new way to apply these principles in my marriage now every time that I consider them. Just like you, I have further to go and I am excited for what God has for my marriage as I continue to love, lead, and learn my wife more like Christ loves the church. There are other biblical roles of a husband such as provider (1 Tim. 5:8) and protector, but for now this should be enough to evaluate in your own life and marriage.

1) Lover (Eph. 5:25-33). As a husband, you are called to love your wife in a deeper and more unconditional way than you ever thought possible…as Christ loves the church. This is a life-long pursuit of pursuing the Lord and your wife as you learn to live out the Gospel in your marriage. What are some of the ways that Christ loves the church?

  • He loves her unconditionally.
  • He died for her…there is nothing that God can call you to do for your wife that is too much!
  • He forgives her sin.
  • He covers her sin (He doesn’t hold a grudge).
  • He’s her advocate.
  • He protects her.
  • He provides for her needs.
  • He knows her needs, her strengths, her weaknesses, and He acts on her behalf.
  • He sanctifies her.
  • He has time for her.
  • He understands her–He was incarnational (even as God He experienced what man experiences daily, and now He can sympathize with our weaknesses).

2) Leader (Eph. 5:22-23).  Have you ever ridden a tandem bike?  You both pedal but only one can direct the bike by using the handle bars. You are both putting out energy and working together, but one has to take the responsibility for choosing the path that the bike will head down. If you are a husband, God has put you at the handle bars: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…” (Eph. 5:22a). Have you ever thought of what it would be like to be under your leadership within your marriage relationship? As husbands, we will answer to God for how we have led our wives.
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3) Learner (1 Peter 3:7). One of the exciting aspects of marriage is learning our wives for the rest of our lives. In fact, God says that if you don’t live with her in an understanding way and show her honor, then your prayers will be hindered. Marriage is dynamic. You are both constantly changing. Ask God to help you understand how to serve your wife today. What would bring her joy (even something as simple as doing the dishes because she is especially tired tonight)? What is a special way you can encourage her in her walk with the Lord? God says that she is a “weaker vessel,” but as husbands we often treat our wives as Tupperware rather than as a rare vase that is worth millions.

Remember, you can live out these things as a husband, which brings God glory, is best for your wife, and is best for you (Eph. 5:28-31). But you must be saved and walking with the Lord to be able to do this, by the power of the Holy Spirit changing you (Eph. 5:18).

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I did give an answer to the question, “Is marriage really hard?” I told them with a huge smile, “It is, but it is more than worth it.” Praise God that He has not left us wondering what our job as a husband is. He has given us both the commands and the resources to be able to love, lead, and learn our wives with joy.