Saturday, April 28, 2007

Assessing Technology Properly

As Christians who desire to bring every thought captive to the Lord Jesus Christ, we must assess everything in this world from the biblical perspective and use it accordingly. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 is a classic text on this. Christians are neither ascetics nor hedonists, although unbelievers might call us both. We simply operate according to a wholly different perspective on this world. This world is passing away, but we live for what is eternal.

Our present society places great stock in technological progress. In fact, we may fairly say that we live and die by technology. This is only logical if we worship Man and his greatest achievement, Science. But as Christians, we see the race of Adam for the farce and failure he is, and we put our trust only in the Second Adam, the God-man Jesus Christ. This means that while we will certainly use technology for the glory of God, we can never trust in it to achieve the good life.

I recently came across some questions to ask of any technology in attempting to properly assess it. These are from a leading social critic of recent years, Neil Postman. He is perhaps most well-known for his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. These questions, however, come from another of his later works, Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century. Postman did not attempt to think biblically. Nevertheless, he did manage to keep technology at a sufficient distance to criticize it thoughtfully. Here are some questions he recommends.

1. What is the problem to which this technology is the solution? He goes on to write, “This question needs to be asked because there are technologies employed – indeed, invented – to solve problems that no normal person would regard as significant. Of course, any technology can be marketed to create an illusion of significance, but an intelligent, aware person need not believe it.” As Christians living in light of eternity, we should understand our problems and their solutions primarily in terms of what will allow us to participate with Christ in his mission. Technology must serve this goal.

2. Whose problem is it? Just because “everyone” “needs” a given technology does not mean that you or I need it. Since we have different goals, it may well be that what the rest of the world needs we do not need. Conversely, we may need things that the rest of the world would scoff at.

3. Which people and what institutions might be most seriously harmed by a technological solution? Whether we pay attention to it or not, there are always trade-offs involved in adopting any given technology. Too often, we don’t pay attention, and we are caught spiritually unprepared for the changes that technology brings. The industrial revolution is an example writ large in the history books, but we could multiply more mundane examples in everyday. A growing family may opt to solve their scheduling issues by buying another car. This will certainly bring certain benefits. But it will also bring challenges that the family may only be dimly aware of until it has taken its toll on them.

As Christians, we must be seriously concerned in our day about the institutions of the church and the family. We dare not rush into a technological solution to woes which cannot be solved by technology. The technology we do adopt must be done with eyes wide open to the possibilities and also the problems.

4. What new problems might be created because we have solved this problem? Postman writes, “It is doubtful that one can think of a single technology that did not generate new problems as a result of its having solved an old problem.” True. This is because at the root man’s problems are not technological. They are spiritual. Our ultimate needs are not for faster travel, faster communication, improved manufacturing, lower prices, and more stuff. We need righteousness, which is as much as to say, we need God. He alone can satisfy our souls. Technology will never give us God (remember the Tower of Babel), and more often than not it turns into our god. But worshipping hard drives and fiber optic cables is pretty low if we want any kind of a life.

5. What sort of people and institutions might acquire special economic and political power because of technological change? The obvious example Postman exploits is television. He correctly notes that Abraham Lincoln very likely would not have become president if there had been television in his day.

Last question:

6. What changes in language are being enforced by new technologies, and what is being gained and lost by such changes?

Interestingly, from a Christian vantage point, I am not as pessimistic about technology as Postman seems to be. That is because I serve a God who is providentially directing this entire universe to his good ends. I also have a commission from him to exercise stewardship over this earth, using the capabilities he has given mankind. Therefore, I am not at all afraid of developing new technologies. However, I do not want us to trust in technology to solve our problems, to give us a better world, or to make us happy. That is idolatrous. Let’s be aware of the real possibilities and problems with technology for our ultimate goal of glorifying and enjoying God forever. And remember, “The present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 16)

We are nearing the end of this series of posts on child training. I trust they have been helpful for you. Since it has been a few months since I began this series, I thought it might be helpful to repost an excerpt from the introduction.

One of my goals for High Country Baptist Church is to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28). To that end, our Sunday sermons focus on the direct exposition and application of Scripture. Yet we obviously cannot cover everything about applying the Scriptures to our lives in one or two sermons a week. On this blog, then, I try to bring up various topics that we can think through biblically.
I would like to do a series of posts over the next several weeks interacting with a pithy little work on child training written over 160 years ago by J. C. Ryle entitled How Should a Child Be Trained? I picked up this booklet at a little Amish bookstore and have found it to be challenging and helpful. Many of our church members are at the beginning of child-rearing years, so this is directly applicable to us. But even for those who are not currently rearing children, I believe this will be worthwhile for two reasons. First, nearly everyone impacts the life of some child at least indirectly. You might be a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, a teacher, or just a fellow church member. In any case, you can be a Christian influence in the life of a child. Second, child training requires rigorous and skillful application of biblical truth to life. Christianity lives as it is applied, and in no other way. Observing the real life applications of Scripture to child training will provide you will a model for applying Scripture to many other areas of life.

And now for the next installment of How Should a Child Be Trained.

XIV. Train them, remembering continually the influence of your own example.

Instruction, and advice, and commands, will profit little, unless they are backed by the pattern of your own life. Your children will never believe you are in earnest, and really wish them to obey you, so long as your actions contradict your counsel. Archbishop Tillotson made a wise remark when he said, “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand, and lead them in the way to hell.”

We little know the force and power of example. No one of us can live to himself in this world; we are influencing those around us, in one way or another, either for good or for evil, either for God or for sin. They see our ways, they mark our conduct, they observe our behavior; and what they see us practice, that they may fairly suppose we think right. And never, I believe, does example tell so powerfully as it does in the case of parents and children.

Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn more by the eye than they do by the ear. The best of school masters will not imprint on their minds as much as they will pick up at your fireside. Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory. What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.

Take care, then, what you do before a child. It is a true proverb, “Who sins before a child, sins double.” Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly, too. Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, reverence for the Lord’s day. Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility. Think not your children will practice what they do not see you do. You are their model picture, and they will copy what you are. Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands, and your good advice – all this they may not understand, but they can understand your life.

Children are very quick observers, very quick in seeing through kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all your ways and opinions; and you will generally find, as the father is, so is the son.

Remember the word that the conqueror Caesar always used to his soldiers in a battle. He did not say, “Go forward,” but “Come.” So it must be with you in training your children. They will seldom learn habits which they see you despise, or walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself. He that preaches to his children what he does not practice, is working a work that never goes forward. It is like the fabled web of Penelope of old, who wove all day and unwove all night. Even so the parent who tries to train without setting a good example, is building with one hand and pulling down with the other.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 3 - God's Decree

3.3 By His decree, and for the manifestation of His glory, God has predestinated (or foreordained) certain men and angels to eternal life through Jesus Christ, thus revealing His grace. Others, whom He has left to perish in their sins, show the terrors of His justice. [Mat.25:34; Rom.9:22,23; Eph.1:5,6; 1Tim.5:21; Jude 4]

3.4 The angels and men who are the subjects of God's predestination are clearly and irreversibly designated, and their number is unalterably fixed. [John 13:18; 2 Tim. 2:19]

3.5 Before the world was made, God's eternal, immutable purpose, which originated in the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, moved Him to choose (or to elect), in Christ, certain of mankind to everlasting glory. Out of His mere free grace and love He predestinated these chosen ones to life, although there was nothing in them to cause Him to choose them. [Rom. 8:30; 9:13,16; Eph. 1:4,9,11; 2:5,12; 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Tim. 1:9]

Separation of Church and State

Yesterday Chad and I attended a debate at the Air Force Academy between Michael Weinstein and Jay Sekulow on the topic of religion in the military. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to hear both of these men state and defend their views in person. Of course, this debate is simply a subset of the larger issue that has come to be known as "separation of church and state." What is separation of church and state, and how should Christians think about it? We will talk about these questions on Sunday evening, so if you have questions, come prepared to talk about them. In these days, it is crucial that we learn to think biblically on this subject.

In the meantime, if you wish to learn more about this subject, I would recommend a couple books to get you started.
Daniel L. Dreisbach, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State.
Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 15)

XIII. Train them, remembering continually how God trains His children.

The Bible tells us that God has an elect people – a family – in this world. All poor sinners who have been convinced of sin, and fled to Jesus for peace, make up that family. All of us who really believe on Christ for salvation are its members.

Now, God the Father is ever training the members of this family for their everlasting abode with Him in heaven. He acts as a husbandman purging His vines, that they may bear more fruit. He knows the character of each of us – our besetting sins – our weakness – our peculiar infirmities – our especial wants. He knows our works and where we dwell, who are our companions in life, and what are our trials, what our temptations, and what are our privileges. He knows all these things, and is ever ordering all for our good. He allots to each of us, in His providence, the very things we need, in order to bear the most fruit – as much of sunshine as we can stand, and as much of rain – as much of bitter things as we can bear, and as much of sweet. Reader, if you would train your children wisely, mark well how God the Father trains His. He doeth all things well; the plan which He adopts must be right.

See, then, how many things there are which God withholds from His children. Few could be found, I suspect, among them who have not had desires which He has never been pleased to fulfill. There has often been some one thing they wanted to attain, and yet there has always been some barrier to prevent attainment. It has been just as if God was placing it above our reach, and saying, “This is not good for you; this must not be.”…

See, too, how often God leads His people by ways which seem dark and mysterious to our eyes. We cannot see the meaning of all His dealings with us; we cannot see the reasonableness of the path in which our feet are treading. Sometimes so many trials have assailed us – so many difficulties encompassed us – that we have not been able to discover the needs-be of it all. It has been just as if our Father was taking us by the hand into a dark place, and saying, “Ask no questions, but follow me.” There was a direct road to Canaan, yet Israel was not led into it, but round through the wilderness. And this seemed hard at the time. “The soul of the people,” we are told, “was much discouraged because of the way” (Num 21:4).

See, also, how often God chastens His people with trial and affliction. He sends them crosses and disappointments; He lays them low with sickness; He strips them of property and friends; He changes them from one position to another; He visits them with things most hard to flesh and blood; and some of us have well-nigh fainted under the burdens laid upon us. We have felt pressed beyond strength, and have been almost ready to murmur at the hand which chastened us….

Now, reader, notwithstanding all these things, did you ever hear of a single child of God who thought his Father did not treat him wisely? No, I am sure you never did. God’s children would always tell you, in the long run, it was a blessed thing they did not have their own way, and that God had done far better for them than they could have done for themselves. Yes! And they could tell you, too, that God’s dealings had provided more happiness for them than they ever would have obtained themselves, and that His way, however dark at times, was the way of pleasantness, and the path of peace.

I ask you to lay to heart the lesson which God’s dealings wit His people are meant to teach you. Fear not to withhold from your child anything you think will do him harm, whatever his own wishes may be. This is God’s plan.

Hesitate not to lay on him commands, of which he may not at present see the wisdom, and to guide him in ways which may not now seem reasonable to his mind. This is God’s plan.

Shrink not from chastening and correcting him whenever you see his soul’s health requires it, however painful it may be to your feelings; and remember medicines for the mind must not be rejected because they are bitter. This is God’s plan.

And be not afraid, above all, that such a plan of training will make your child unhappy. I warn you against this delusion. Depend on it, there is no surer road to unhappiness than always having our own way. To have our wills checked and denied is a blessed thing for us; it makes us value enjoyments when they come. To be indulged perpetually is the way to be made selfish; and selfish people and spoiled children, believe me, are seldom happy.

Reader, be not wiser than God; train your children as He trains His.

SCOTUS on Partial Birth Abortion

You have doubtless heard about yesterday's Supreme Court decision to uphold the ban on partial birth abortion. This is definitely something for which we as Christians can be grateful. Let us pray that much more moral clarity will come from this. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Scalia, concurred with the opinion of the majority but issued a separate statement which, I believe, provided the best statement of the day.

Justice Thomas wrote, "I join the Court's opinion because it accurately applies current jurisprudence, including Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992). I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court's abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), has no basis in the Constitution."

May we have more Justices like Thomas.

(You can read the statements of the court here.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 3 - God's Decree

3.1 FROM all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will. Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners. Neither, by reason of His decree, is the will of any creature whom He has made violated; nor is the free working of second causes put aside; rather is it established. In all these matters the divine wisdom appears, as also does God's power and faithfulness in effecting that which He has purposed. [Num. 23:19; Isa. 46:10; John 19:11; Acts 4:27,28; Rom. 9:15,18; Eph. 1:3-5,11; Heb. 6:17; Jas. 1:13; 1 John 1:5.

3.2 God's decree is not based upon His foreknowledge that, under certain conditions, certain happenings will take place, but is independent of all such foreknowledge. [Acts 15:18; Rom. 9:11,13,16,18.]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rejoice in the Lord

You can listen to our Sunday morning sermon here.

May you know the joy of the Lord this week!

Great Biographies

Dr. Al Mohler provides a list of 10 great Christian biographies. Check it out here. There are some in the list that I have not read, so I am putting them on my "to-read" list!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Christians in War

A couple days ago I put up a little post about just war. Wrestling with the questions of just war can seem a bit abstract at times, but the purpose of dealing with these questions is not abstract at all. War impacts real people with some of the most challenging situations humans can face.

In our church, we need to remember our brothers in Christ who are dealing first hand with war. Pray not only for their safety, but even more for their spiritual well-being. Pray that God would give them the wisdom and spiritual perception to be servants of Christ even while they participate in this war. Pray for their families to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior through this experience. Ultimately it is the cause of Christ that we seek to advance, no matter what happens in this war.

Pray also, and this is paramount, that Christ would accomplish his purposes through this war in the world and in our lives. Abraham Lincoln wisely reminded us during the Civil War not to pray that God would be on our side, but that we would be on God's side. The difference is huge. In the former prayer we try to get God to take up our cause and do what we want. In the latter prayer we submit ourselves to God's will and humbly seek to accomplish it. And we know that God's desire and plan is to bring glory to himself by building his church. We need God's grace to keep this perspective.

Here are some pictures of one Christian in this war that we have been praying for, my brother Brandon.
Heading off to "work."

On the job.

Showing captured enemy weapon, the good old AK-47

Making unusual friends

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 14)

XII. Train them with a constant fear of over-indulgence.

This is the one point of all on which you have most need to be on your guard. It is natural to be tender and affectionate toward your own flesh and blood, and it is the excess of this very tenderness and affection which you have to fear. Take heed that it does not make you blind to your children’s faults, and deaf to all advice about them. Take heed lest it make you to overlook bad conduct, rather than have the pain of inflicting punishment and correction.

I know well that punishment and correction are disagreeable things. Nothing is more unpleasant than giving pain to those we love, and calling forth their tears. But so long as hearts are what heart are, it is vain to suppose, as a general rule, that children can ever be brought up without correction.

Spoiling is a very expressive word, and sadly full of meaning. Now it is the shortest way to spoil children to let them have their own way – to allow them to do wrong and not to punish them for it. Believe me, you must not do it, whatever pain it may cost you, unless you wish to ruin your children’s souls.

You cannot say that Scripture does not speak expressly on this subject. [Here Ryle quotes Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:15-17.] How strong and forcible are these texts! How melancholy is the fact, that in many Christian families they seem almost unknown! Their children need reproof, but it is hardly ever given; they need correction, but it is hardly ever employed. And yet this book of Proverbs is not obsolete and unfit for Christians. It is given by inspiration of God and profitable. It is given for our learning, even as the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians. Surely the believer who brings up his children without attention to its counsel is making himself wise above that which is written and greatly errs.

Fathers and mothers, I tell you plainly, if you never punish your children when they are in fault, you are doing them a grievous wrong. I warn you, this is the rock on which the saints of God, in every age, have only too frequently made shipwreck. I would fain persuade you to be wise in time, and keep clear of it.

After showing the examples of the parenting failures of Eli and David, Ryle continues.

Parents, I beseech you, for your children’s sake, beware of over-indulgence. I call on you to remember, it is your first duty to consult their real interest, and not their fancies and likings; to train them, not to humor them; to profit, not merely to please.

You must not give way to every wish and caprice of your child’s mind, however much you may love him; you must not let him suppose his will is to be everything, and that he has only to desire a thing, and it will be done. Do not, I pray you, make your children idols, lest God should take them away, and break your idols, just to convince you of your folly.

Learn to say “No” to your children. Show them that you are able to refuse whatever you think is not fit for them. Show them that you are ready to punish disobedience, and that when you speak of punishment you are not only ready to threaten, but also to perform. Do not threaten too much.[1] Threatened folks and threatened faults live long. Punish seldom, but really and in good earnest; frequent and slight punishment is a wretched system indeed.[2]

Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed, under the idea “it is a little one.” There are no little things in training children; all are important. Little weeds need plucking up as much as any. Leave them alone, and they will soon be great.

Reader, if there be any point which deserves your attention, believe me, it is this one. It is one that will give you trouble, I know. But if you do not take trouble with your children when they are young, they will give you trouble when they are old. Choose which you prefer.

Powerful words, but so very, very true.

[1] Some parents and nurses have a way of saying, “Naughty child,” to a boy or girl on every slight occasion, and often without good cause. It is a very foolish habit. Words of blame should never be used without real reason.

[2] As to the best way of punishing a child, no general rule can be laid down. The characters of children are so exceedingly different, that what would be a severe punishment to one child would be no punishment at all to another. I only beg to enter my decided protest against the modern notion that no children ought ever to be whipped. Doubtless some parents use bodily correction far too much, and far too violently; but many others, I fear, use it far too little.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When Should Children Be Baptized?

Pulpit magazine has a thoughtful article on this topic. I invite your questions on it.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 2 - God and the Holy Trinity

2.3 Three divine Persons constitute the Godhead-the Father, the Son (or the Word), and the Holy Spirit. They are one in substance, in power, and in eternity. Each is fully God, and yet the Godhead is one and indivisible. The Father owes His being to none. He is Father to the Son who is eternally begotten of Him. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. These Persons, one infinite and eternal God not to be divided in being, are distinguished in Scripture by their personal nature or in relations within the Godhead, and by the variety of works which they undertake. Their tri-unity (that is, the doctrine of the Trinity) is the essential basis of all our fellowship with God, and of the comfort we derive from our dependence upon Him. [Exod. 3:14; Matt. 28:19; John 1:14,18; 14:11; 15:26; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; 1 John 5:7.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just War

In our young church, we have not had the occasion to discuss what is known as "just war theory." Obviously, this is a major issue in our society today. Sadly, we rarely hear or read clear thinking on this subject. If you have questions in this area and want to do some serious thinking about it, here are a couple articles by George Weigel dealing specifically with the application of just war theory to our war on terror. The first one is entitled Moral Clarity in a Time of War, and the second is Iraq: Then and Now. Both of these were published in First Things.

Note: The author is a Roman Catholic, so this will show up in his argumentation. My position on just war would be very similar to his, although there would be some differences in our understanding and use of natural law.

Jesus Christ the King of Glory

I truly enjoyed our Sunday celebration of our Lord's victory over death and evil. Here are the young ones singing Morning Breaks Upon the Tomb and Jesus Christ the King of Glory.

Speaking of Mothers...

Speaking of mothers, here is another bit of common sense wisdom that people used to know. Now, however, it seems that it takes university research to figure it out. The World Congress of Families Family Update Online reports -

Family Research Abstract of the Week: Punching the Clock Risks Mom's Health

Social science research documents a number of negative effects of full-time maternal employment on the well-being of children, but what about the impact on the well-being of mothers? While policymakers around the globe continue to push for more mothers to work full-time outside the home, a new study by researchers at the University of Queensland finds that combining motherhood and full-time employment yields a significant "health burden" for women.

Looking at the responses of more than 2,200 Australian men and women who responded to the "Negotiating the Lifecourse" study, a longitudinal panel study conducted in two waves (1996-97 and 2000), the researchers studied the interaction of employment and parental status on self-reported health. While their most complex statistical model found no significant interactions between these variables for men, it yielded key correlations for women, suggesting that "work and family commitments operate differently for men than women." For example, having children under 18 significantly lowered the odds of reporting poor health for women not working outside the home (p<.05) or only working part-time (p<.01), compared to their peers working full-time outside the home. In other words, for mothers with children, working outside the home full-time represents a health risk whereas staying at home (or only working part-time) represents a health benefit.

(Source: Belinda Hewitt, Janeen Baxter, and Mark Western, "Family, Work, and Health: The Impact of Marriage, Parenthood, and Employment on Self-Reported Health of Australian Men and Women," Journal of Sociology 21 [March 2006]: 61-78.)

Of course, as Christians our moral authority is the Scripture, not studies or opinion polls. I do not post this as if it were the final word on the subject. Yet I post this because it reveals again to me how even common sense observations, i.e. that mothers were not made to carry the burden of providing for their families, lie trampled in the dust in our society. This post and the last reveal the real legacy of feminism - women exposed to depredation and disease that men should be protecting them from. Shame be upon us as Christians if we do not show the world a more excellent way!

Military Moms

Al Mohler has an excellent post on the moral absurdity of mothers fighting our wars. See it here.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

For those of you who might not have time to do a great deal of reading, Sermonaudio is a resource you can use to listen to sermons for free. Thousands of sermons are available to download. Some are great, some are not so great. But if you have time to listen while you are driving or doing busy work, it can be a good way to meditate on biblical truth.

While printing church bulletins today, I listened to A. W. Tozer preach "What Does It Mean to Accept Christ." You can find it here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Hymn for Good Friday


Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy
By Jonathan Evans and Benjamin Francis

Hark! the voice of love and mercy
Sounds aloud from Calvary;
See, it rends the rocks asunder,
Shakes the earth, and veils the sky:
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Hear the dying Savior cry;
Hear the dying Savior cry.

“It is finished!” O what pleasure
Do these precious words afford;
Heav’nly blessings, without measure,
Flow to us from Christ the Lord:
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Saints the dying words record;
Saints the dying words record.

Finished all the types and shadows
Of the ceremonial law;Finished all that God had promised;
Death and hell no more shall awe:
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Saints, from hence your comfort draw;
Saints, from hence your comfort draw.

Tune your harps anew, ye seraphs,
Join to sing the glorious theme;
All in earth, and all in heaven,
Join to praise Emmanuel’s Name;
Alleluia! Alleluia!Alleluia! Glory to the bleeding Lamb!
Glory to the bleeding Lamb!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 13)

We continue our series from J. C. Ryle's excellent instruction on this topic.

XI. Train them to a habit of always redeeming the time.

Idleness is the devil’s best friend. It is the surest way to give him an opportunity of doing us harm An idle mind is like an open door, and if Satan does not enter in himself by it, it is certain he will throw in something to raise bad thoughts in our souls.

No created being was ever meant to be idle. Service and work are the appointed portion of every creature of God. The angels in heaven work – they are the Lord’s ministering servants, ever doing His will. Adam, in paradise, had work – he was appointed to dress the garden of Eden, and to keep it. The redeemed saints in glory will have work – “They rest not day and night,” singing praise and glory to him who bought them. Ad man, weak, sinful man, must have something to do, or else his soul will soon get into an unhealthy state. We must have our hands filled, and our minds occupied, with something, or else our imaginations will soon ferment and breed mischief.

And what is true of us is true of our children too. Alas, indeed, for the man that has nothing to do! The Jews thought idleness a positive sin; it was a law of theirs that every man should bring up his son to some useful trade; and they were right. They knew the heart of man far better than some of us appear to do.

Idleness made Sodom what she was: “This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her” (Ezek 16:49). Idleness had much to do with David’s awful sin with the wife of Uriah. I see in 2 Samuel 11, that Joab went out to war against Ammon, “but David tarried still at Jerusalem.” Was not that idle? And then it was that he saw Bathsheba – and the next step we read of his fall.

Verily, I believe that idleness has led to more sin than almost any other habit that could be named. I suspect it is the mother of many a work of the flesh; the mother of adultery, fornication, drunkenness, and many other deeds of darkness, that I have not time to name. Let your own conscience say whether I do not speak the truth. You were idle, and at once the devil knocked at the door and came in.

And indeed I do not wonder; everything in the world around us seems to teach the same lesson. It is still water which becomes stagnant and impure; the running, moving streams are always clear…. If you would have good bodily health yourself, you must take exercise. If you always sit still, your body is sure at length to complain. And just so it is with the soul. The active, moving mind is a hard mark for the devil to shoot at. Try to be always full of useful employment, and thus your enemy will find it difficult to get room to sow tares.

Reader, I ask you to set these things before the minds of your children. Teach them the value of time, and try to make them learn the habit of using it well. It pains me to see children idling over what they have in hand, whatever it may be. I love to see them active and industrious, and giving their whole heart to all they do; giving their whole heart to lessons, when they have to learn; giving their whole heart even to their amusements, when they go to play.

But if you love them well, let idleness be counted a sin in your family.

Contrary to popular opinion, the good life is not a life of leisure. We do not work for the purpose of getting to retirement. We work in order to fulfill the blessing God gave to mankind in Genesis 1:28 of subduing the earth. As we do that rightly, we are productively participating with God in his mission to glorify himself. Joy comes through learning to rejoice in the Lord through the productive labor he gives us to do. "In all toil there is profit" (Prov 14:23). The sooner our children learn that, the better!

Here are some practical pointers to that end.
1. Even from their youngest years, give your children work to do around the house (commensurate with their abilities). They need to see that they have something valuable to contribute to the family mission. They will know their labor is productive and satisfying when they know what the family mission is and when they can see that they are helping to accomplish it.
2. Include your children whenever possible in the work that you are doing. For instance, this week my wife is doing spring cleaning. Instead of getting the children out of the way, she is having them help her. Honestly, this does make more work for her at this stage in the child-rearing years. She could do this much faster herself if she hired a babysitter. But to do that would be to deprive our children of being a productive part of the family. It would also implicitly teach them that they can be lazy because they are "just kids." This is exactly the reason many young adults do not like to grow up. They are accustomed to being lazy and they have never learned the joy of productive labor. Men, teach your sons to mow the lawn, fix the faucet, and change the oil in the car. Do things together as a family, and enjoy doing it!
3. Teach your children to enjoy mental labor. Read and discuss the Bible and great literature. Avoid the mind-numbing computer games and television serials.
4. Hold up godly, hard-working examples before them. Point out young adults in the church who are diligent in serving the Lord with their lives. Honor men who are hard-working tradesmen and women who are workers at home. Your children will begin to see the real satisfaction that comes from simple, excellent labor.
5. Study the book of Proverbs together as a family. Proverbs gives great wisdom concerning the life of diligence vs. the life of indolence.

These are just some thoughts off the top of my head. Any suggestions you would like to add?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 2 - God and the Holy Trinity

2.1 THERE is but one, and only one, living and true God. He is self-existent and infinite in His being and His perfections. None but He can comprehend or understand His essence. He is pure spirit, invisible, and without body, parts, or the changeable feelings of men. He alone possesses immortality, and dwells amid the light insufferably bright to mortal men. He never changes. He is great beyond all our conceptions, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty and infinite. He is most holy, wise, free and absolute. All that He does is the out-working of His changeless, righteous will, and for His own glory. He is most loving, gracious, merciful and compassionate. He abounds in goodness and truth. He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. He rewards those who seek Him diligently. But He hates sin. He will not overlook guilt or spare the guilty, and He is perfectly just in executing judgment. [Gen. 17:1; Exod. 3:14; 34:6,7; Deut. 4:15,16; 6:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Neh.9:32,33; Ps. 5:5,6; 90:2; 115:3; Prov. 16:4; Isa. 6:3; 46:10; 48:12; Jer. 10:10; 23:23,24; Nah. 1:2,3; Mal. 3:6; John 4:24; Rom.11:36; 1 Cor. 8:4,6; 1 Tim.1:17; Heb. 11:6.]

2.2 God is all-sufficient, and all life, glory, goodness and blessedness are found in Him and in Him alone. He does not stand in need of any of the creatures that He has made, nor does He derive any part of His glory from them. On the contrary, He manifests His own glory in and by them. He is the fountain-head of all being, and the origin, channel and end of all things. Over all His creatures He is sovereign. He uses them as He pleases, and does for them or to them all that He wills. His sight penetrates to the heart of all things. His knowledge is infinite and infallible. No single thing is to Him at risk or uncertain, for He is not dependent upon created things. In all His decisions, doings and demands He is most holy. Angels and men owe to Him as their creator all worship, service and obedience, and whatever else He may require at their hands. [Job 22:2,3; Ps. 119:68; 145:17; 148:13; Ezek.11:5; Dan. 4:25,34,35; John 5:26; Acts 15:18; Rom. 11:34-36; Heb. 4:13; Rev. 5:12-14.]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Precise, Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology is almost a bad word to some Christians. This is a shame, and it is probably one reason why many professing believers can't recognize a red herring or a red heresy when they see one.

Paul Helm has begun a series of posts dealing with systematic theology and why it is a good thing. His first post is about what definitions do and what they do not do. Here is an excellent quote:

Systematic theology is (or aims to be) above all other things loving and obedient thought about God. Loving and obedient speech and practice may follow, but whether or not it does so depends upon factors besides thought alone. Calling exact, propositional theology rude names like ‘theoretical’ or ‘foundationalistic’ does not alter anything. The sobering truth is that the one gospel is to some a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life (2 Cor. 2.16) Which it is very largely turns on whether we properly appreciate the aroma of Christ, not whether or not we care for definitions. But the definitions should help us to understand the gospel better.

So definitions are not imperialistic. They are not the work of theological know-alls. And the theoretical versus practical issue is a red herring.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Global Warming?

You have certainly heard news bites recently about global warming. However, news bites never tell the whole story. If you have wondered what the truth is, this article from a Christian scientist may be helpful for you. He assesses the evidence clearly and soberly, while recognizing what we do and do not know from this evidence.

Update: Here is another interesting piece, this time by William F. Buckley, Jr.

Dealing with Division

Today's sermon from Philippians 4:2-3 is now available online here.

How do we deal with division in the body as true partners in the gospel?
1. Appeal to those involved.
2. Agree in the Lord.
3. Ask for assistance.
4. Assess everyone involved properly.