In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul requires that a man rule his house faithfully if he is going to rule in the household of God. The proof he is ruling his house faithfully is manifested in the faithfulness of his children. Sadly, this is a very neglected qualification for pastors and elders in the evangelical church today. If a man’s ministry is not bearing fruit in his own household, in the lives of his children, why would we expect him to be an effective shepherd in the household of God, the church? In the book of Proverbs, the rebellion of a son is often said to bring shame on his mother and father precisely because the parents are presumed to be responsible for the child’s life. They could have shepherded and disciplined his more effectively, but failed to do so. In other cases, we have explicit teaching of Scripture that good, wise parenting produces fruitfulness and faithfulness in the lives of the children (e.g., Titus 1:6), and undisciplined, unfaithful parenting leads to rebellion (e.g., 1 Sam. 3:13). Scripture is very clear: there is a deep and abiding connection between faithfulness on the part of the parents and faithfulness in their children. But how deep does that connection go? Are there any exceptions or qualifications? If a child rebels, should we always automatically conclude the parents are also to blame?

God’s people have many ways of expressing godly grief over our own sin or over tragedies we endure in this fallen world. Here are a few examples.
 
From 2 Samuel 13:
 
[19] And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.
 
From Esther 4:
 
[1] When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. [2] He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. [3] And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
 
From Jonah 3:
 
[5] And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Of course, we are never required to perform such outward rituals when we grieve over sin or the fallenness of the world. But to condemn all such rituals is Gnostic. They have their place, as physical manifestations of a repentant heart, just as feasting and gift giving are proper manifestations of a thankful and joyful heart.
 
In Matthew 6, Jesus condemned outward fasting and mourning rituals done to look pious or as a kind of religious showmanship. But we know he was only condemning the hypocritical abuse of these rituals, not the rituals themselves, because a few chapters later, he tells us what real repentance would look like if those cities that saw his mighty works had humbled themselves. In Matthew 11, we read:
 
[21] Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
 
So disfiguring your face to show others you are a superstar believer and a holier-than-thou Christian is forbidden. Do not be a Pharisee. But manifesting genuine brokenness and contrition over sin, even in sackcloth and ash, is commendable.
 
Welcome to Lent.

The absurdist Albert Camus once wrote, "Death is philosophy's only problem." For Camus death is the ultimate problem because if every human story ends in death, it renders the rest of our lives meaningless. The wise man Solomon expressed a similar concern over death in Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 when he pondered the sobering fact that the wise man and the fool both come to the same end: If "the wise dies just like the fool," what good is wisdom? In chapter 3, Solomon extends this line of reasoning when he notes that what happens to beasts also happens to men -- "as one dies, so dies the other....They have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts."

Yes, we are technically still in the Advent season for a couple more days, but this is the time of year folks begin to greet one another with "Merry Christmas!" The origin and exact meaning of the phrase "Merry Christmas" is somewhat debatable, largely because the word "merry" has carried different connotations at different times.

This time of year, many Christians say things like, "Remember the reason for the season." The point, of course, is that the real meaning of Christmas must not get lost amidst the presents, the parties, and everything else that typically goes with the Advent/Christmas season. I agree and disagree.