Theology Awards: Conspiracy Theories and the Providence of God

In the Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (and elsewhere), John Frame defines theology as “the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life.”1  

If John Frame is correct, then far from being the academic quest for abstractions by dusty professors, theology is the pursuit of every Christian.  Since, after all, every Christian is trying to “use of God’s revelation to meet the spiritual needs of people [or their own], to promote godliness and spiritual health.”2

Each week, Theology Awards celebrates the work of a blogger who’s worked hard to apply the word of God to an area of life for the good of God’s people.

This weeks winner is:

Conspiracy Theories and the Providence of God

“Why in the world is our culture fascinated with conspiracy theories? I have my own conspiracy theory, or more to the point, I have a theory about conspiracies.” 

Lynn Pryor

In this post, Lynn tries to get to the root of our Western fascination with conspiracy theories and how a preoccupation with conspiracies might reveal a lack of consideration for God.

Why not go check out the article and leave a comment. Even if you don’t agree with everything the author has to say I guarantee it will make you think. 

1. Frame, John M. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. A Theology of Lordship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1987. 81.

2. Frame, John M. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. A Theology of Lordship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1987. 81.


When Prayer Feels Pointless

Have you ever spent ages writing an important email, hit send and walked away, only to find out later that’s its bounced back? Message undelivered!

Have you ever posted a letter or parcel only have it reappear at your door covered in red stickers? Returned to sender!

Or perhaps, you need to get hold of someone urgently and they won’t pick up their phone. You decided to leave a message, but it is no good. Voicemail full!

Is there anything worse than feeling like contact is out of reach? Feeling that no matter what you try the lines of communication are down?

I wonder have you ever felt way in prayer? Felt that no matter what you ask, or say, or pray, that your words seem to float up only to bounce back, undelivered. As if someone in the heavenly sorting office is stamping your prayers return to sender. Leaving you feeling like God’s voicemail is full, he’s out of reach and the lines of communication are down? I know, at times, I have felt that way? What about you? Maybe, you are feeling like that right now.

If so James 5:13-18 will be music to your ears. Take are read of it and allow the wonderful truths of this passage to refresh your heart. Let the Holy Spirit use to remind you what you already know deep down – prayer is never pointless. Here’s what James has to say:

Powerful and Effective?

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

James 5:13-18 (NIV)

I’m not going to bottom out all the nitty-gritty of this passage here. Instead, I simply want you to notice is how often prayer features in these verses. I also want you to see the range of different circumstances in which prayer is deployed and the variety of people who are the prayed for and doing the praying. Maybe even take 30 seconds to re-read the passage above and make a mental note every time prayer pops up.

In v13, James tells us to pray when we are in trouble. In v14, he tells us that if we are sick, then we are to ask the elders to pop over, and they will pray with us and anoint us with oil. We are also told to confess our sins to one another. Certainly, that includes confessing our dirty little secrets but perhaps more our run of the mill failings and struggles. Why? So that we can pray for each other.

In each of these situations James tells us that, all things being equal, our prayers will be powerful and effective. The person in trouble will be rescued. The sick person will be healed. And the spiritually sick will have their conscience healed. If there is one thing these prayers are not, then they are certainly not pointless.

James’ reason for this confidence is found at the end of v16. “The prayer of a righteous person,” he tells us, is both “powerful and effective”. But to understand, what James means buy this and how it relates to Elijah, we first need to know what he means by a ‘righteous person’.

The Prayer of the Righteous Person

In the New Testament, the word righteous is used in a few ways: Sometimes it describes a person’s character or behaviour (eg. Matthew 1:19, NASB). And it would be tempting to think that this is what James means here. That the prayers that are most powerful and effective are those prayed by godly super saints and obedient prayer warriors. As if James were saying “The prayer of the sinless person is powerful and effective.”

But this is not how James uses the word ‘righteous’ here. The particular word that James uses refers to the way that God views a person after they have trusted in Jesus for salvation. They are righteous because they are declared or considered to be right with God through Christ. In other words, they are righteous not because they have been obedient to God’s law, but because Jesus has been obedient to the law on their behalf!

When we understand this, suddenly, like a magic eye puzzle, James point comes into sharp focus. Those whom God considers right with him through faith are not a small set of super saints or prayer warriors, are they? Who are they then? Who are the ones considered right with God?

That’s right, us! You and me! James is talking about, ordinary, average, every day, bog standard Christians – with all our struggles, weakness, and failings. Our prayers, yours and mine are not pointless, they are both powerful and effective. Powerful and effective, not because of who we are or what we have done for God, but because of who God is and what Jesus has done for us through his death and resurrection!

A Very Human Example

This is why James points us to Elijah’s exploits in 1 Kings 17-18. He doesn’t use Elijah as an example of a super-saint or a prayer warrior, but instead, he reminds us in v17 that “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” – with all same struggles, weakness, and failings that we have.

Elijah Raising the Widow’s Son
(1 Kings 17:17-24)
Louis Hersent, 1777-1862

In other words, he was someone that God considered righteous, right with him, because of Elijah’s trust in the promises of God. Elijah was a man who struggled against sin and sinful people, experiencing joy and suffering, hope and fear.

And yet… and yet, God was pleased to answer his prayers – in spectacular ways – not because of Elijah’s character or his obedience made him deserving of it but because of God’s character and Christ’s future obedience on Elijah’s behalf.

Our Prayers are Never Pointless

So the next time the enemy or your own sinful heart tries to convince that your prayers are pointless, remember: our prayers are not powerful and effective because of who are or what we do. Neither, do our prayers bounce back or return to the sender every time we have a bad day or feel like we’ve messed it all up. Our prayers are powerful and effective even when we don’t feel like they are. Because their power and effectiveness are not based on how we feel on earth, but how the one in Heaven feels about us.

And, incredibly, he delights to call us righteous in Christ Jesus.

The Secret to Faithful Parenting

Picture the scene, you’re in the car heading home. You’ve just picked up your ten-year-old son from school. “how was your day?” you ask.

“Fine” They reply.

“Did anything interesting happen today?”

“Ummm. I found an almond branch in the playground and then pot boiled over in the school canteen.”

“Oh really… That’s nice dear”

“Yep, and now I need you to take me to a BBC newsroom.”

Pregnant pause.

“Um why?”, you inquire.

“because I have a message from God. If the nation doesn’t turn back to him then the Russians are going to invade and burn down the houses of parliament!”

“Uh, and did God say when this invasion was going to take place?”

“2058 – so we’ve got to hurry!”

The Pint-sized Prophet

As bizarre as that conversation sounds, that is pretty much the mission God gives to young Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1-19, esp v11-19). God commissioned Jeremiah to warn them of coming judgement and call them back to me.

Take verse 10, for example, God tells Jeremiah that his mission would be more about judgement than hope, but it would still contain some hope. Through this judgement, God would still work to rebuild and replant his people. Even if most of that building and planting wouldn’t begin until the people were already in Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 29:1-16).

It was a hard mission Lord called him to. For most of his forty-year career, Jeremiah was accused of being a liar (43:1-3), a false prophet (26:7-11), a traitor (38:1-6), a deserter (37:11-16), and conspiring with foreign powers (43:3). And even when Babylon was at the door, and his prophecies were being fulfilled, still the people and their rulers would not listen to God and his prophet (see, for example, Jeremiah 36).

Jeremiah was imprisoned (37:15-16), put in public stocks (20:1-2), and even thrown down a well and left to die (38:6). His mission was opposed by the people, the priests, false prophets, and kings. Even those from his hometown of Anathoth tried to have him killed (11:18-23).

On top of the burden of his mission, he often struggled with doubt and depression (Jeremiah 20:7-20). In the end, Jeremiah was dragged off to Egypt against his will – the very last place he wanted to be (43:1-7).

Given all that Jeremiah would face as he grew into his mission, it makes sense that his encounter with God would end in v17-19 with both a charge and a promise.

Jeremiah’s charge in v17 has three parts.

  1. Jeremiah is to prepare himself for what lies ahead as a soldier prepares for war.
  2. He is to only speak what the Lord tells him to speak.
  3. And he is to fear to offend his God more than he fears offending the people.

Fearful of Looking Foolish?

For many of us, it’s that last part Jeremiah’s charge which is the hardest. We know in theory that the answer to feeling like a fool is to fear offending God more than offending others. But often it is much harder in practice. At times Jeremiah seemed to know implicitly how to fear the Lord more than people, at other times he would have to learn it the hard way.

The Lord knows that the road ahead will be hard for Jeremiah, so he follows up the charge with a promise. In v18-19, God promises to keep Jeremiah as secure as a fortified city, as strong as an iron pillar, and as immovable as a bronze wall. But notice that this is not a promise of an easy life, God never makes that promise to anyone.

Like us, Jeremiah is called to live a cross-shaped life, marked by perseverance and self-denial. And even though people fight against him they would never overcome him – Through Jeremiah, God would always have the last word.

Many would consider it utterly foolish to put such huge expectations on a child so young. Surely the weight of the task will crush him, he is bound to give up. And on occasion Jeremiah almost did. But he is God’s prophet, his words are God’s words, and where God’s word is, there the Holy Spirit is too. God’s presence would go with God’s prophet to guide and protect his faith every step of the way.

When we consider all that Jeremiah will endure throughout his life it is hard not to think of Jesus. Misunderstood by rulers, opposed by the religious establishment, and rejected by his own people (see for example Mark 14-15). Along with all the might of Satan himself, they fought against him and for a time it looked like the succeeded. They hung him on a cross, left him to die, and then sealed his body in a tomb.

But Jesus was adamant from the beginning that as foolish as it sounded this was his mission all along (Luke 24:7). His death would pay the price for our sin and bring life and hope to his people (Mark 10:45). As foolish as the cross looked, it wasn’t the end. Jesus rose again in victory three days later, breaking the curse of death and securing the eternal life of us, forever.

And in Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus gives us, his people, a mission, to share this news with everyone everywhere. To go and tell what he has done and why people need to turn from sin and trust in him. And Like Jeremiah’s mission, many consider our mission a fool’s errand.

But Jesus promises us that he will be with his people through the good times and the bad… even to the very end of the age. He knew it wouldn’t always be easy. Because Jesus knows better than anyone, that being faithful to the mission, means being prepared to look foolish to the world.

Foolishness Begins at Home

As a husband and a dad, one of the things I regularly have to remind myself is that the mission Jesus has set me to make disciples doesn’t begin when I walk out of the door in the morning. It begins much earlier; it begins when I wake up in the morning.

The discipleship mission begins when I say ‘good morning’ to my sons; when I hug them and tell them that I love them. They are a reminder to me that God has commissioned me to be a father-missionary to my own children. After all, their hearts are just as deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and in need of the gospel as any other human being that God puts across my path that day.

Yet like Jeremiah and countless other parents, it is all too easy to feel overwhelmed and inadequate for the task God has for me. Especially, when my own feeble efforts make me feel like a fool. So what’s the answer? What is the secret of being faithful, to being parents who are always following Christ? What clues does Jeremiah 1:1-19 give us?

Looking at this passage it would be all too easy to say that like Jeremiah we need to stand up and be ready. To not make excuses for our feelings of weakness but to be prepared to say and do whatever it takes.

To fear God more than we fear upsetting or disappointing our children. We need to become parents that are as secure as a fortress, strong as an iron pillar, and unmoving in our parenting as a bronze wall.

Maybe there is some truth there but it forgets something important.

The Secret to Faithful Parenting

The lesson Jeremiah was to take from this encounter was not to simply pull his socks up and try harder – that way ultimately leads to ruin and despair. No, the lesson we need to learn from Jeremiah is that being parents who are faithful to God means trusting in the faithfulness of God.

  • A God who has sworn that he will be on watch to ensure that his word fulfils his purposes no matter what (Jeremiah 1:11-12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • A God who has sworn to give us the words to say when we need them most (Matthew 10:18-20), just as he did for Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9-10).
  • And a God who has sworn that whenever we go, and whatever we do, we don’t need to fear tantrums and stubborn children (Philippians 4:6-7). His presence, the Holy Spirit, will be with us every moment of every day (Matthew 28:20).

Sure we might make mistakes, and at times our children might make us feel like complete fools. Other times we’ll do a good job of that without their help. But if Jeremiah 1:1-19 has taught me anything, it is that if we want to be faithful to Christ, we are going to look foolish from time to time.

The Power of an Inspirational Image

It was the morning of the 5th June, the year was 1989. Jeff Widerner, a photographer with the associated press, was sat on the balcony of his Beijing Hotel documenting the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The pro-democracy protests had been steadily building since the 15th April and reached a violent peak when the Chinese army was sent into the end the protest by any means necessary. It was as Jeff sat there snapping shots of the fallout, that he capture the shot of a lifetime. A man ran out in front of a column of tanks a refused to move.

Not only did the man survive. His image, known only as “Tank Man” still inspires political activities and grassroots movements today, nearly thirty years on. This nameless individual has become a global symbol of an ordinary citizen standing up to the might of a totalitarian regime.

And winning…

It seems to me that Peter understands the power of inspirational imagery too.

He knew that when crunch time came, we’d need more than commands and rules to willingly endure suffering in pursuit of the good life described in 1 Peter 2:11-12. We’d need someone to look to for inspiration and encouragement. But before he paints us an inspirational picture of Jesus suffering in 1 Peter 3:22-24, he first wants us to understand why are to suffer in Jesus footsteps (1 Peter 3:21, 25).

Tracing Jesus’ Outline (v21)

In v21 we see that Jesus is our example to imitate. He says:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 3:21)

Jesus is THE suffering servant, and we are too are follow in his example as servants who suffer. Peters idea of an  ‘example to follow’ carries with it the image of a child learning their letters by tracing them over and over again.

Peter wants us to see that Jesus sufferings are an example of how to endure unjust suffering ourselves. A pattern to conform ourselves to over and over again, just a like a child copying out their letters until each one is perfect.

Under Jesus’ Protection (v25)

Peter also wants us to know that Jesus can be trusted. Which is why he reminds us that Jesus as our divine protector.

“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 3:25)

Drawing on Isaiah 53:6, the first part of the verse describes what we were like, past tense. We like sheep each wondering of on our own sinful and rebellious paths. But now we have come under the care of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

And whilst we might suffer a little while in this life, Jesus, our good Shepherd will care for us and protect us from eternal harm every step of the way. So Peter tells us to imitate Jesus because he is both our pattern and our protector.

Inspirational Snapshots of Suffering (1 Peter 3:22-24)

But it is in the middle verses, v22-24, where he paints the provocate picture to stir us up and move us to action. Peter gives us three snapshots of Jesus sufferings leading up to the cross which show us how to pursue the good life in times of opposition.

These snapshots help us see that:

  • We suffer for what is right (1 Peter 3:22)
  • We suffer with our eyes on the resurrection (1 Peter 3:23)
  • We suffer for a reason (1 Peter 3:24)

Let’s walk through them briefly.

1. Firstly, We suffer for what is right (1 Peter 3:22).

Peter says that Jesus suffered under the might of sinful authorities even though “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” In other words, Jesus suffered as an innocent man. By reminding us that Jesus suffered even though he was totally sinless in word and action, Peter wants to ensure that if we are going to endure suffering in public or the workplace. That, like Jesus, we are doing so as those who endure with a clear conscience. Following in Jesus footsteps by suffering for what is right.

2. We suffer with our eyes on the resurrection (1 Peter 3:23)

Alluding to Isaiah 53:7, Peter remind us that though Jesus was falsely arrested, falsely accused, falsely tried, mocked, beaten, and left to die he did not lash out at his abusers… neither physically nor verbal. Instead, Peter says that Jesus “he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus knew that his vindication wouldn’t be in a legal status or defense, but in his resurrection from the dead and so he placed his hope in his Father’s hands. This is not to say that we should stoically endure injustice even if their opportunities to put it right.

On several occasions, in the Book of Acts, Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship to avoid or escape state-sponsored persecution. But it does remind us that our ultimate hope for justice is not in this life but the next. And when we refuse to return violence for violence and insult for insult, we display a christlike hope in a final and future justice in a perfect eternal courtroom. God’s courtroom.

3. We suffer for a reason (1 Peter 3:24)

Here Peter writes that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus suffering and death might have been an earth-shattering injustice but it was also God’s plan. His suffering had meaning, it was for a reason: Jesus endured the injustice of the cross so that through His death we might die to the sinful desire of our old life so that through the power of his resurrection we would live for righteousness.

Now when Peter uses the word ‘righteousness’ here, he is not saying that we live God’s way to becoming right with him. No, praise God, that’s already happened through Jesus finished work on the cross. Praise God! Instead, Peter is saying because we are right with God through Christ, we are to do what considers right in response.

Amazingly, Peter is saying, that like Jesus, our unjust suffering has meaning and purpose too! In God’s mysterious and loving plan, even persecution and opposition have become part of the good life he has for us, his dearly loved children. It has become a way to conform our character to the pattern of his son. To make us more like Jesus.

An Image to Inspire

When we’re sharing the gospel and they don’t seem interested, who do we look to? When we’re insulted, mocked, or ignored, who do we look to? When we’re misrepresented in the news or on social media, who will we look to? When our children try to hold to biblical values and a Christ-centered gospel in school, among their friends, and, eventually, at work or university, who will they look to?

The image of one man standing up to the mechanized might of communist China was enough to inspire countless men and women to stand up and be counted. In the same way, what better image to inspire a generation of Christian’s to prayerfully resolve to stand up and be counted than the image of our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ.

So the next time, we’re sharing the gospel and they don’t seem interested, we look to Jesus. When we’re insulted, mocked, or ignored, we looked to Jesus. When we’re misrepresented in the news or on social media, we look to Jesus. When our children try to hold to biblical values and Christ-centered gospel in school, among their friends, and, eventually, at work or university, like Peter, we encourage them to look to Jesus.

Whatever you’re facing today; keep looking to Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Why It Isn’t Important Whether Our Son Has a Proper Job

Currently, we are in the process of moving house; soon our little cottage will become a labyrinth of boxes. Which means only one thing: trying to find anything will be like playing a game of The Crystal Maze does Tetris. Yet despite this inevitable house moving hazard, times like these have a habit of making me look to the future and dreaming big dreams. Recently, this reflecting has made me realise something:

It isn’t important to me whether our son has a ‘proper’ job, a surplus in the bank or a smooth ride through life.

But surely every parent wants those things for their child don’t they? Do they? Do I?

i. A ‘Proper Job’

I think parents have the best intensions at heart when they desire ‘proper jobs’ for their kids. Nevertheless, I would never want those best intentions to restrict him from follow God’s call on his life. Employed Christian ministry, church planting, overseas mission, international aid and countless others, are certainly not ‘proper jobs’. Often times the pay is low, the work is hard and the fiscal security is rather lacking. Nevertheless, I would rather he worked hard in a job he loved, that he felt he was called to, then one he hated but thought would make his ‘old man’ pleased. If our son felt that he could best serve God best as a barman, then a barman he shall be.

ii. A Load of Money

Our son will grow up in a society that we constantly tell him that happiness is directly proportional to the amount of money he has. Since money buys stuff, and stuff makes you happy doesn’t it? Does it? I certainly don’t want him to be poor, but that doesn’t mean I want him to be rich either. After all, the pursuit of wealth has made both beggar and banker do stupid things (1 Timothy 6:10).

My financial prayer has also been the words of Proverbs 30: 7-9:

“O God, I beg two favours from you;
Let me have them before I die.
First, help me never to tell a lie.
Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

To date God has been faithful. We’ve always paid the bills on time whether by eleventh hour provisions or prudent planning and self-sacrifice. We can’t always afford what we want, but we’ve always been able to get what we needed.

Proverbs 30:7-9, is now my pray for him also. Trusting that God will show him that that true wealth is in Christ where neither moth, rust, global recession or national banking collapse can touch it (Matthew 6:19-21; Philippians 4:19).

iii. An Easy Life

William Shakespeare once wrote:

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”1

I have always thought this was a great summary of many of the reluctant leaders that God has used throughout history, who, often neither seeking or aspiring to greatness, have it thrust upon them. God used them to achieve great things often at their own expense and personal sacrifice.2 Do I want my son to suffer? Of course I don’t, what parent would! Nevertheless, I would never want my desires for an easy life for our son, to get in the way of him rising to the greatness that Christ may wish to lay upon him.2

In summary, I never want my plans to get in the way of God’s plans for our son, and that is why it isn’t important to me whether he has a ‘proper’ job, a load of money or an easy life.

  1. William Shakespeare, *Twelfth Night, *4.5 
  2. The suffering of the prophets, the apostles and Paul specifically (2 Corinthians 11:16-33), as well as innumerable Christian missionaries bear witness to this fact. 

Why the Greatest Enemy of My Marriage is Me

When it comes to my family, two statistics risk keeping me awake at night:


“Over a million children have no meaningful contact with their fathers and by the end of their childhood a young person is considerably more likely to have a Smart Phone than a resident father (only 57 per cent of 15 year olds are still living with their fathers while 62 per cent own a smartphone)”1

And secondly, on exiting childhood,

“A youngster is considerably more likely to have a television in his bedroom than a father living at home.”2

On top of all this, a recent study by the CSJ stated that,

“Without concerted and sustained government action, by the end of the next Parliament [2015 – 2019] nearly half of all children taking their GCSEs (48 per cent) will come from broken homes”3

I don’t know about you, but these statistics scare the life out of me. They scare me precisely because I know my that my son could easily become one of those statistics. I say that openly and honestly because its true; my marriage’s greatest enemy is me. It’s not my job, or the pressures of home. It is me and my desperately sinful heart.

A heart that Jeremiah describes as, “the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). I might be saved by the mercies of God but I’m by no means perfect. I might be justified through Christ, and rescued from the consequences of my sin, but I have not yet been saved from its presence or, for that matter, its influences. My sin is seeking to destroy me and my marriage.

No surprise, let’s face it, we’ve all heard the stories. Just look at David; God called him a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). And yet he conspired to have Uriah the Hittite murdered in battle to cover up his affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-27).4

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The answer comes in the very next verse, “I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.” (Jeremiah 17:10).

If God has examined the secret motives of my heart then he knows the darkness that lies within it. And if he knows the depths of the darkness that lies within it, then he can provide grace of infinite measure to combat its deceitfulness and desperate wickedness. Grace obtained through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus.

Earlier, I said that those two statistics risk keeping me up at night. The reason why they don’t keep me awake is because of the grace of God. I am confident that because of his wondrous mercies, lovingly poured out in Jesus Christ, my son will never be one of those statistics. God is good and I am not. But I believe that his grace is sufficient to protect my marriage against its worst enemy: me.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

  1. The Centre for Social Justice, Fully Committed? How a Government could reverse family breakdown (July 2014), pg. 27, accessed January 31, 2015, 
  2. Anthony Daniels, “Charity Shouldn’t Begin at Home for Save the Children,”The Telegraph, September 7, 2012, accessed January 30, 2015, 
  3. CSJ, Fully Committed?, 15 
  4. David was already married when he met Bathsheba (1 Samuel 25:40-43) 

The Naughty Step: Reflecting on the Heart of Discipline

To discipline, but how? That is the question. My son is almost a year old and being a ‘planner’ I like to have strategies ready to go before I need them. Better to be prepared, than to hit the ground running, right?

But how? Smacking – surely not? Time outs – do they really work? Are you to be immutable and authoritative or flexible and gracious? If both, how to strike a balance?

My wife and I talk about it a lot, but it is a hard nut to crack.

In his book, God, Marriage and Family, Andreas Köstenberger offers a good starting point for dads (and mums) when thinking about this subject. He says,

“Looking at… relevant New Testament references, we observe that fathers’ primary role is to provide for their children and to ensure proper nurture and discipline. This involves formal as well as informal education and entails the exercise of various forms of discipline.”1

But how, Andreas, how?

“Fathers (and mothers) must strike a balance between proper discipline and loving nurture and support. Neither the “encouraging parent” who neglects to discipline his child nor the strict disciplinarian fulfils the the biblical ideal of parenting.”2


Father’s ought to realize that their fatherhood derives from the “one God and Father of all” “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”[Ephesians 4:6, 3:15]… Who cares and provides faithfully for all his children and acts as a perfect Father towards them all [Hebrews 12:5-10].”3

OK so I am still no closer to finding an the answer for now. But, if I spend some more time reflecting on the loving discipline of my Heavenly Father I might find one yet.

Which brings me to a final thought. What if the most important thing about discipline is not so much how, but who. That is, no matter how I seek to discipline our son, I always strive for it to ultimately flow from my identity as a loved child of God, rather than as a response to culture, or my parents or my past. In this way, endeavouring to make sure that it imperfectly reflects the love and character of my Heavenly Father and how he feels towards me because of the work of Jesus on my behalf…

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~ Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)

  1. Andreas Köstenberger, God, Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the Foundations (Illinois: Crossways, 2004), 119 
  2. Köstenberger, God, Marriage and Family, 119 
  3. Köstenberger, God, Marriage and Family, 120