Thursday, May 31, 2007

Witnessing Reminder

At the beginning of this year we went through the "Two Ways to Live" evangelism training. I want to encourage everyone not to let that lie dormant. Are you still keeping fresh on how to present the gospel? Have you been able to use it lately? I would enjoy hearing of how God is using you to be his witnesses.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

5.6 God, as a righteous judge, deals otherwise with wicked and ungodly men. He awards them blindness and hardness of heart for their sins. He withholds from them the grace which might have enlightened their minds and exercised their hearts, and in some cases recalls the gifts He had bestowed upon them. Also, He sets them in situations which their evil hearts seize upon as opportunities for sin. In other words, He abandons them to their own innate corruptions, to the temptations of the world, and to the power of Satan, with the consequence that they harden themselves by the use of the very means which God employs for softening the hearts of others. [Exod. 8:15,32; Deut. 2:30; 29:4; 2 Kings 8:12,13; Ps. 81:11,12; Isa. 6:9, 10; Matt. 13:12; Rom. 1:24-26,28; 11:7,8; 2 Thess. 2:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:7,8.]

5.7 God's general providence reaches out to all creatures, but in a very special way it is directed to the care of His church. All things are controlled providentially for the good of the church. [Isa. 43:3-5; Amos 9:8,9; 1 Tim. 4:10.]

I would like to note in regards to the last statement that, by citing these Scripture references, the confession shows some confusion regarding the nature of the church. It assumes that ancient Israel may be called the "church." But this is incorrect. The church properly so-called began on the day of Pentecost.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome Meghan!

We are delighted in God's gift of a little girl to the Schluesslers! Congratulations, Justin and Melissa. May she grow up to be an excellent woman who is far more precious than jewels!

Creation and Evolution

Given our discussion on Sunday evening about Darwinian naturalism, I thought you might be interested in this information.

Excellent information from a creationist viewpoint:
Answers in Genesis
Institute for Creation Research

The new Creation Museum

Here are a couple recent Christian commentaries on the creation/evolution issue:
Promiscuous Teleology - Albert Mohler
Closed Minds at the Creation Museum - Russell Moore

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 20)

We come now, at last, to the end of Ryle's applications of Proverbs 22:6. I trust it has been beneficial for you to contemplate how to train up your children in the way they should go. May God grant that High Country Baptist Church will train up a generation that knows the Lord! Here then are Ryle's final, earnest words.

And now, reader, in conclusion, let me once more press upon you the necessity and importance of using every single means in your power, if you would train your children for heaven.

I know well that God is a sovereign God, and doeth all things according to the counsel of His own will. I know that Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, and Manasseh the son Hezekiah, and that you do not always see godly parents having a godly seed. But I know also that God is a God who works by means, and sure am I, if you make light of such means as I have mentioned, your children are not likely to turn out well.

Fathers and mothers, you may send your children to the best of schools, and give them Bibles and prayer books, and fill them with head knowledge; but if all this time there is no regular training at home, I tell you plainly, I fear it will go hard in the end with your children’s souls. Home is the place where habits are formed; home is the place where the foundations of character are laid; home gives the bias to our tastes, and likings, and opinions. See then, I pray you, that there be careful training at home. Happy indeed is the man who can say as Bolton did upon his dying bed to his children, “I do believe not one of you will dare to meet me before the tribunal of Christ in an unregenerate state.”

Fathers and mothers, I charge you solemnly, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, take every pains to train your children in the way they should go. I charge you, not merely for the sake of your children’s souls; I charge you for the sake of your own future comfort and peace. Truly it is your interest so to do. Truly own happiness in great measure depends upon it. Children have ever been the bow from which the sharpest arrows have pierced man’s heart. Children have mixed the bitterest cups that man has ever had to shed. Adam could tell you so; Jacob could tell you so; David could tell you so. There are no sorrows on earth like those which children have brought upon their parents. Oh, take heed, lest your own neglect should lay up misery for you in your old age; take heed, lest you weep under the ill treatment of a thankless child, in the days when you eye is dim, and your natural force abated.

If ever you wish your children to be the restorers of your life, and the nourishers of your old age; if you would have them blessings, and not curses; joys, and not sorrows; Judahs, and not Reubens; Ruths, and not Orpahs; if you would not, like Noah, be ashamed of their deeds, and, like Rebekah, be made weary of your life by them – if this be your wish, remember my advice betimes: Train them while young in the right way.

And as for me, I will conclude by putting up my prayer to God for you all, that you may all be taught of God to feel the value of your own souls. This is one reason why Christian training is despised and disregarded; you feel not for yourselves, and so you feel not for your children. You do not realize the tremendous difference between a state of nature and a state of grace, and therefore you are content to let them alone.

Now, the Lord teach you all that sin is that abominable things which God hateth. Then, I know you will mourn over [the] sins of your children, and strive to pluck them as brands from the fire.

The Lord teach you all how precious Christ is, and what a mighty and complete work He hath done for our salvation. Then, I feel confident you will use every means to bring your children to Jesus, that they may live through Him.

The Lord teach you all your need of the Holy Spirit, to renew, sanctify, and quicken your souls. Then, I feel sure you will urge your children to pray for Him without ceasing, and never rest till He has come down into their hearts with power, and made them new creatures.

The Lord grant this, and then I have a good hope that you will indeed train up your children well – train well for this life, and train well for the life to come; train well for earth, and train well for heaven; train them for God, for Christ, and for eternity.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 5 - Divine Providence

5.4 God's almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness are so far-reaching and all-pervading, that both the fall of the first man into sin, and all other sinful actions of angels and men, proceed according to His sovereign purposes. It is not that He gives His bare permission, for in a variety of ways He wisely and powerfully limits, orders and governs sinful actions, so that they effect His holy designs. Yet the sinfulness involved in the actions proceeds only from angels and men and not from God who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. [Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; 2 Kings 19:28; 1 Chron. 21:1; Ps. 50:21; 76:10; Isa. 10:6,7,12; Rom. 11:32-34; 1 John 2:16.]

5.5 God, who is most wise, righteous and gracious, frequently allows His own people to fall for a time into a variety of temptations, and to experience the sinfulness of their own hearts. This He does in order to chastise them for sins which they have committed, or to teach them humility by revealing to them the hidden strength of evil and deceitfulness remaining in their hearts. His purpose is also to cause them to realize their need to depend fully and at all times upon Himself, and to help them to guard against sin in the future. In these and other ways His just and holy purposes are worked out, so that all that happens to His elect ones is by His appointment, for His glory, and for their good. [2 Chron. 32:25,26,31; Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 12:7-9.]

Structured Loyalty

Douglas Wilson has some good thoughts on the loyalties of American Christians. He writes, "The accomplishments of Americans, which are many and great, are just mounds of rubbish when considered apart from Christ. But when laid at the feet of Christ, the garbage turns to gold."

He goes on to say:

We are to have structured loyalties, not one uniform loyalty. "One loyalty" is the mark of one kind of idolater, the ideaologue, the unitarian. And inverted loyalties indicate a different kind of idolater. It is this second kind of idolatry that is rampant among American Christians today. We do not structure our loyalties biblically, and this is something we have to learn how to do.

Consider the following two quotations: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is non other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This is an echo of something that Rome claimed for Caesar Augustus, and for the Christians to make the counter-claim was high defiance.

And consider this, taken from President Bush’s second inaugural address. "There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom . . ." This is a messianic claim, and it is a false messiah. In this view, does the revelation of God in Christ have a role to play—of course, but it is necessarily a subordinate role, alongside all the other privatized religions in the pantheon of the empire. "That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people." Little problem. One of the truths of Sinai is "thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hymns Are Good for the Soul

This week in our family devotions my soul has been particularly enriched by the hymns we sang together. It Is Well with My Soul was one such hymn. Whenever I sing "that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed his own blood for my soul," I can hardly keep singing because of the lump in my throat. But I want to keep singing, for the next stanza says "My sin - oh the bliss of this glorious thought - my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to his cross, and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"

Other great hymns we have enjoyed this week are Holy, Holy, Holy; Praise the Savior Ye Who Know Him; Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness; and There Is a Fountain among many others. If you have never learned what a blessing hymn singing is in your family, I would greatly encourage you to begin working on it now. It will refresh your soul!

All Things Considered...

This week it seems as if I have been trying to think about 20,000 issues simultaneously. That's an exaggeration, of course, but I'm sure you have experienced similar times. Here is one of those things for you to think about.

Dr. James Dobson reports that he has made an "irrevocable decision" not to vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008, due primarily to Giuliani's position on abortion. I mention this only to ask and answer this question: Should Christians refrain from voting for someone based only upon one moral issue? Should we be one issue voters? My answer to that query is that there are some issues, abortion among them, that merit such status. There are many issues that we might debate about how they should be handled, but abortion is not one of them. Anybody who supports abortion is not fit to lead a government, for one of the major purposes for which God instituted government was to protect human life (Gen 9:6; Rom 13:1-7). By declaring his support for abortion, Mr. Guiliani has made plain that he does not have the moral bearings necessary to lead a just government. I would enjoy discussing this with you.

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 19)

XVII. Train them, lastly, with continual prayer for a blessing on all you do.

Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavors will do no good. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touch the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose. Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more ready to give blessing than we to ask them; but He loves to be entreated for them. And I set this matter of prayer before you as the topstone and seal of all you do. I suspect the child of many prayers is seldom cast away.

Look upon your children as Jacob did on his; he tells Esau, they are “the children which God hath graciously given they servant” (Gen 33:5). Look on them as Joseph did on his; he told his father, “they are the sons whom God hath given me” (Gen 48:9). Count them with the Psalmist to be “an heritage and reward from the Lord” (Ps 127:3). And then ask the Lord with a holy boldness to be gracious and merciful to His own gifts…. See how Manoah speaks to the angel about Samson: “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him” (Judg 13:12)? Observe how tenderly Job cared for his children’s soul: “He offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all, for he said, It may be my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:5). Parents, if you love your children, go and do likewise. You cannot name their names before the mercy-seat too often.

To this I can only say, Amen. Let us now be doers of the Word and not hearers only!

Next week will be our final installment of the series.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 5 - Divine Providence

5.1 GOD who, in infinite power and wisdom, has created all things, upholds, directs, controls and governs them, both animate and inanimate, great and small, by a providence supremely wise and holy, and in accordance with His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable decisions of His will. He fulfills the purposes for which He created them, so that His wisdom, power and justice, together with His infinite goodness and mercy, might be praised and glorified. [Job 38:11; Ps. 135:6; Isa. 46:10,11; Matt. 10:29-31; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 1:3.]

5.2 Nothing happens by chance or outside the sphere of God's providence. As God is the First Cause of all events, they happen immutably and infallibly according to His foreknowledge and decree, to which they stand related. Yet by His providence God so controls them, that second causes, operating either as fixed laws, or freely, or in dependence upon other causes, play their part in bringing them about. [Gen. 8:22; Prov. 16:33; Acts 2:23.]

5.3 Ordinarily, in His providence, God makes use of means; yet He is free to work without them, to give them efficacy above what they normally possess, and even to work contrary to them, at His pleasure. [Isa. 55:10,11; Dan. 3:27; Hos. 1:7; Acts 27:31,44; Rom. 4:19-21.]

I would like to make one comment about statement 5.2, just to preclude any misunderstanding. When we talk about God as the "first cause" and about other events as "second causes," we sometimes get the idea that God works like a train of dominoes. Domino 1 starts the chain reaction by falling against domino 2. Domino 2 falls against 3, 3 against 4, and so on. So God (domino 1) has only an indirect relationship with dominoes 3, 4, 5, etc. But this does not match the biblical information, nor is this what the statement 5.2 above is saying.

In biblical thought, God is directly involved in everything that happens (thus the statement above says that God is the first cause of all events). When we talk about secondary causation, we mean it in the sense that all of the causes we observe in this world are secondary to God's causation. The causes that we observe are part and parcel of God's operation. For example, when an apple falls to the ground, we attribute it to gravity. This is correct. But we may at the same time attribute it to God, for gravity is the outworking of God operating in, with, and by his creation.

When we think of this, it should make us worship. Psalm 104 is a perfect example for us:

"You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; He makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire....You make springs gush forth in the valleys....You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate....These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.... May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works...!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Murder on Demand

Lest we get complacent about the moral catastrophe in our nation known as abortion, please read Dr. Albert Mohler's blog today about the growing practice of aborting babies for any trait deemed undesirable. It is a thought so chilling that it is hard to even contemplate, but we need to realize what is going on in our society. May it spur us to press ever harder after Christ. May Christ use us to bring others from the domain of darkness to His kingdom of life and light.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

God's Handiwork

Here is an amazing picture of a phenomenon commonly called a "fire rainbow" or a circumhorizontal arc. This picture has been going around the internet for almost a year, and apparently it is a genuine photograph. You can look up the scientific explanation for this online, but I just want to comment on the amazing beauty that God puts into his world.

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 18)

I almost did not post this section of Ryle's application of Proverbs 22:6. It needs some qualification. Yet, on second thought, I thought it would provide us with another opportunity to think carefully about the scriptures and how they apply to our lives. So here is Ryle's admonition, followed by my comments.

XVI. Train them, remembering continually the promises of Scripture.

I name this also shortly, in order to guard you against discouragement.

You have a plain promise on your side, “Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). Think what it is to have a promise like this. Promises were the only lamp of hope which cheered the hearts of the patriarchs before the Bible was written. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – all lived on a few promises, and prospered in their souls. Promises are the cordials which in every age have supported and strengthened the believer. He that has got a plain text upon his side need never be cast down. Fathers and mothers, when your hearts are f ailing, and ready to halt, look at the word of this text, and take comfort.

Think who it is that promises. It is not the word of a man, who may lie or repent; it is the word of the King of kings, who never changes. Hath He said a thing, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? Neither is anything too hard for Him to perform. The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. Reader, if we get not the benefit of the promise we are dwelling upon, the fault is not in Him, but in ourselves.

Think, too, what the promise contains, before you refuse to take comfort from it. It speaks of a certain time when good training shall especially bear fruit – “when a child is old.” Surely there is a comfort in this. You may not see with your own eyes the result of careful training, but you know not what blessed fruits may spring from it, long after you are dead and gone. It is not God’s way to give everything at once. “Afterward” is the time when he often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace. “Afterward” is the season when affliction bears the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11). “Afterward” was the time when the son, who refused to work in his father’s vineyard, repented and went (Matt 21:29). And “afterward” is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once – you must sow in hope and plant in hope.

…Go forward then in faith, and be sure that your labor shall not be altogether thrown away. Three times did Elijah stretch himself upon the widow’s child before it revived. Take example from him and persevere.

I would like to make a few comments here which relate to what I posted at the beginning of this series. Many in our day will object to Ryle’s use of the word “promise.” There is something to this objection which needs to be considered, yet I also believe that the thrust of what Ryle is communicating should not be discarded.

The objection is that proverbs by their very nature are not the same as promises. C. Hassell Bullock gives a typical statement in this regard: “It is inappropriate to treat the proverbs of this book as promises. They are theological and pragmatic principles.” After quoting Proverbs 22:6, he writes, “We are inclined to accept that as a promise, but the proverb really states a principle of education and commitment. That is, generally speaking, when a child is properly instructed in the way of wisdom from an early age, he or she will persist in that way” (An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books, 2nd ed., p. 162). An overview of the whole book of Proverbs shows that Bullock is correct. In fact, the whole wisdom literature of the Old Testament shows us that this world does not operate mechanistically or moralistically according to unalterable cause and effect. If the world did operate according to simple cause and effect rules, then we would not need wisdom. The classic example here is Job’s friends. Their reductionistic view of the way the world worked actually showed that they lacked wisdom because they assumed that the presence of calamity always and everywhere indicated God’s judgment on sin.

So as we approach Proverbs 22:6, we should not assume a simple cause and effect kind of equation. The world does not work that way, and we dishonor the teaching of the book of Proverbs if we try to make it fit that mold. Why, then, do I say that we should not discard what Ryle is trying to communicate?

Even though we should not consider Proverbs 22:6 as a promise, it is still a God-given principle which should inform and guide our expectations and hopes for life. We should take comfort as parents in this truth. It does give us hope that our labors will not be in vain. It is basically true that in the universe that God governs and sustains, when parents train their children in the way of wisdom, those children will persevere in that way even unto old age.

I fear that in our day we want to emphasize the exception to this verse rather than the rule. But this puts the emphasis directly the opposite way the verse itself does. Many, many times I have heard discussions which warn against discouraging parents by preaching this verse as a promise. The thought seems to be that so many parents do everything they can to properly train their children, yet the children still turn out poorly. So we had better not make them feel bad about failing as parents. But I disagree. If in fact so many parents are doing everything they can to train their children properly, then according to this verse the vast majority of those children will live wisely throughout their lives. If the children do not turn out properly, then the onus is on the parents (this does not in any way diminish the children’s personal responsibility). The guilt the parents feel should not be relieved by changing the emphasis of Scripture, but by the gospel. Parents who have not trained their children to follow the way of wisdom must repent and find forgiveness in the work of Christ. That is the solution for guilt. That is also the way that the parents who have made mistakes in their parenting can model for their wayward children the truth of the gospel. If the parents refuse to take responsibility for their wayward children, perhaps this is a clue into why their children are wayward in the first place. The parents themselves may have never learned the wisdom of living according to the gospel.

I want to make one other comment on Ryle’s application above. He emphasizes the “when a child is old” aspect of the proverb to imply that there may be a gap in time between the input of the parents and the effect in the life of the child. But this is not really what the verse is saying. If anything the emphasis in the text is on the child persevering in the right way throughout life.

All that being said, let me close with this. Parents, you should take hope in this text. You should expect that if you will train your children in the way of wisdom, they will follow that way for the rest of their lives. God is telling you that in the world that he made and governs, this is the way things normally work. I, for one, suspect rather strongly that the reason he has told you this is to encourage you in the work you are doing. So take God’s kind word to heart. Let this text guide your expectations and hope in your child rearing, and look forward to seeing God bring it to pass!

Religion in the Public Schools

Since we talked about separation of church and state last Sunday evening, you may be interested in this just released report on "Religion in the Public Schools" by the Pew Forum. It provides some legal history on this issue.

Here are a couple of my thoughts:
1. From a biblical perspective, everyone has a religion. Everyone acts according to his religion. What is taught in public schools (and in every other school) always directly incorporates or else presupposes a particular religious perspective. It cannot be any other way, and this is the elephant in the room in this whole debate. This whole issue in our society is skewed from the outset by the false idea that a person or a school or any institution can be religiously neutral.
2. In my opinion, the Supreme Court made a serious mistake back in the '40's when it began to use the 14th Amendment to override the 1st Amendment. This mistake has not been corrected; rather, it has been furthered by subsequent Supreme Court decisions.
3. Currently, there is great confusion in this whole issue. A couple years ago John Baker wrote, "The contradictory decisions of the Supreme Court on the Establishment of Religion Clause render the area inchoate if not incoherent" (The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 304). Because of this confusion, it is imperative that Christians think biblically in this area. I do not expect clear guidance to come from either political conservatives or political liberals.
4. Core beliefs are revealed through actions as much as through words. This applies to the federal government as much as to individuals. The government wants to maintain a position, or at least an appearance, of neutrality while engaging in patently non-neutral activities like education. The federal action on education actually reveals its true stance toward religion far more than its confused pronouncements do. Thus, I believe it is fairly clear that the government rejects Christianity as it is revealed to us in the Word of God. The government is more than willing to keep Christianity around as a useful political tool, provided that Christianity behaves like a good little pet that makes no claims to normative, public truth. But at its heart Christianity does make claims to normative, public truth. To reject these is to reject Christianity. Therefore, I believe two things are clear: 1) The public school system does embrace religion, and 2) that religion is not Christianity.

I close with this quotation from Martin Luther: "I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.... I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Teaching Children Hymns

Scott Aniol has "A Plea to Teach Children Hymns" that is worth reading.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 4 - Creation

4.1 IN the beginning it pleased the Triune God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-to create the world and all things in it in six days. All was very good. In this way God glorified His eternal power, wisdom and goodness. [Gen. 1:31; Job 26:13; John 1:2,3; Rom. 1:20; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2.]

4.2 All creatures were made by God, the last to be fashioned being man and woman who received dominion over all other creatures on the earth. God gave man and woman rational and immortal souls, and in all respects fitted them for a life in harmony with Himself. They were created in His image, possessing knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. The divine law was written in their hearts and they had power to obey it fully. Yet, being left to the liberty of their own mutable wills, transgression of the law was a possibility. [Gen. 1:26,27; 2:7; 3:6; Eccles. 7:29; Rom. 2:14,15.]

4.3 The law of God in general was written in the hearts of the first human pair, but at the same time they were placed under a special prohibition not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their happiness and fellowship with God depended upon their yielding obedience to His will, as also did the continuance of their dominion over the creatures. [Gen. 1:26,28; Gen. 2:17.]

"I See No Way Forward"

Dr. Carl Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary, spoke last September at the Theology for All Conference in the UK (HT: Between Two Worlds). One of his lectures was entitled "Contemporary Challenges to Theology and Church Life." In this lecture he spoke, among other things, of the problems of consumerism and the inability to properly implement church discipline. He stated, "We go to a church because of how it meets our needs. We don’t go there to place ourselves under the authority of the local session [He is presbyterian] or under the authority of the man preaching the Word." He also stated, "The crisis in discipline tracks to consumerism."
Professor Trueman is certainly correct, and I would like to elaborate briefly on what he said. Here is the problem in a nutshell: When people pick and choose churches based on personal preferences, and there are multitudes of churches to choose from, church discipline loses its teeth. Anyone who disagrees with any particular church for whatever reason may simply move on to the next church. This inability to enforce church discipline in turn affects the gospel itself. You see, the whole point of putting someone out of a church is to say that the church no longer affirms that the person in question is a genuine believer. The person is someone who needs to be evangelized. But when this person may simply join a different church of a different stripe at will, then the collective judgment of the disciplining church is rendered practically impotent.
Because of this scenario, Dr. Trueman said, "We face a serious collapse in moral accountability in our churches." He went on to say, "Our structures militate against us solving that problem." These are very sobering statements with which I agree completely. However, the most sobering statement he made was this: "I see no way forward."
I take this as a challenge for the glory of God and the advancement of the cause of Christ. We must find a way forward. It must be a way that eschews the facile, superficial unity of doctrinal indifferentism. It must be a way that puts the local church front and center, not para-church groups or organizations. It must be a way that is relentlessly biblical, Spirit-empowered and full of love. Only God can produce this. We must pray and work so that he will.
We should not be naive about the challenges of this kind of undertaking, nor should we be utopian in our expectations. Even a cursory reading of church history should disabuse us of such notions. There will not be perfection in the body of Christ until the great wedding of Christ and his bride. Nevertheless, this should not stop us from working toward that end. In fact, as with personal sanctification, achieving that end is never divorced from working toward that end (e.g. Phil 2:12-13).
To be honest, I have to say with Dr. Trueman that at this point I see no way forward. But I suspect that Moses saw no way forward at the Red Sea, either. We still serve the same God Moses did, and by his grace we know that he will build his church. Let's be a part of that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Owe My Mother

In light of Mother's Day coming up, Pastor Stan Lightfoot passed along to me a list which shows how much we owe our mothers (all tongue-in-cheek, of course).

1. My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done: "If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."
2. My mother taught me religion: "You better pray that this will come out of the carpet."
3. My mother taught me logic: "Because I said so, that's why."
4. My mother taught me more logic: "If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."
5. My mother taught me about contortionism: "Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck?"
6. My mother taught me stamina: "You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."
7. My mother taught me about anticipation: "Just wait until we get home."
8. My mother taught me about receiving: "You are going to get it when you get home!"
9. My mother taught me medical science: "If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to get stuck that way."
10. My mother taught me ESP: "Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"
11. My mother taught me humor: "When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."
12. My mother taught me how to become an adult: "If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."
13. My mother taught me wisdom: "When you get to be my age, you'll understand."
14. My mother taught me about justice: "One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Calon Lan - A Pure Heart

My sister-in-law brought with her several of her CDs when she came to visit, and we have been enjoying the temporary addition to our musical library. One of these CDs is We'll Keep a Welcome, a collection of what have become known as traditional Welsh songs, sung by the Welshman Bryn Terfel. Many of them are inspiring, beautiful, and even moving examples of traditional musical art. An excerpt from the introduction to the album reads:
"Picture, if you will, then, the chapel, full to the bursting point, especially during a cymanfa ganu (singing festival), where hymns like Hyfrydol or Calon lan would be sung in full voice by the entire congregation. An eagerly awaited feature of Welsh Nonconformist worship was the minister's address. These sermons were often lengthy, and frequently the preacher would be so moved that he would actually break into song. This was a manifestation of the Welsh characteristic known as hwyl (literally 'fervour').

The hymn Calon lan by Gwyrosydd is one that I have thoroughly enjoyed making a part of my own heart as I sing to the Lord. The last stanza makes it clear that Christ is the source and sustainer of a pure heart, and when sung from that clear understanding it is edifying. I will share the English translation with you here (because I don't know Welsh!).

I seek not a life of riches,
earthly gold nor finest pearls.
All I seek that is a heart that is happy,
a heart that is honest, a heart that is pure.

A heart that is pure and full of goodness,
fairer than the beautiful lily;
only a heart that is pure can sing,
sing by day and sing by night.

Were I to cherish earthly riches,
they are swift and fleet of wing:
a heart pure and virtuous
riches and eternal gain will bring.


Night and morning does my longing
rise aloft on wings of song,
that God, for the sake of my Savior,
grant me a heart that is pure.


May God grant all of us a pure heart for the sake of our Savior!

How Should a Child Be Trained? (Part 17)

XV. Train them, remembering continually the power of sin.

I name this shortly in order to guard you against unscriptural expectations.

You must not expect to find your children’s minds a sheet of pure white paper, and to have no trouble if you only use the right means. I warn you plainly, you will find no such thing. It is painful to see how much corruption and evil there is in a young child’s heart, and how soon it begins to bear fruit. Violent tempers, self-will, pride, sullenness, passion, idleness, selfishness, deceit, cunning, falsehood, hypocrisy, a terrible aptness to learn what is bad, a painful slowness to earn what is good, a readiness to pretend anything in order to gain their own ends – all these things, or some of them, you must be prepared to see, even in your own flesh and blood. In little ways they will creep out at a very early age; it is almost startling to observe how naturally they seem to spring up. Children require no schooling to learn to sin.

But you must not be discouraged and cast down by what you see. You must not think it a strange and unusual thing, that little hearts can be so full of sin. It is the only portion which our father Adam left us; it is that fallen nature with which we come into the world; it is that inheritance which belongs to us all. Let it rather make you more diligent in using the means which seems most likely, by God’s blessing, to counteract the mischief. Let it make you more and more careful, as far as in you lies, to keep your children out of the way of temptation.

Never listen to those who tell you your children are good, and well brought up, and can be trusted. Think, rather, that their hearts are always inflammable as tinder. At their very best they only want a spark to set their corruptions alight. Parents are seldom too cautious. Remember the natural depravity of your children, and take care.

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 3 - God's Decree

3.6 Not only has God appointed the elect to glory in accordance with the eternal and free purpose of His will, but He has also foreordained the means by which His purpose will be effected. Since His elect are children of Adam and therefore among those ruined by Adam's fall into sin, He willed that they should be redeemed by Christ, and effectually called to faith in Christ. Furthermore, by the working of His Spirit in due season they are justified, adopted, sanctified, and 'kept by His power through faith unto salvation'. None but the elect partake of any of these great benefits. [John 6:64; 10:26; 17:9; Rom. 8:30; 1 Thess. 5:9,10; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1Pet. 1:2,5.]

3.7 The high mystery of predestination needs to be handled with special prudence and caution, so that men, being directed to the will of God revealed in His Word and obeying the same, may become assured of their eternal election through the certainty of their effectual calling. By this means predestination will promote the praise of God, and reverential awe and wonder. It will encourage humility and diligence, and bring much comfort to all who sincerely obey the gospel. [Luke 10:20; Rom.11:5,6,20,33; Eph. 1:6; 1 Thess.1:4,5; 2 Pet. 1:10.]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Child's Complaint recently posted this excellent little poem by Isaac Watts.

Why should I love my sports so well,
So constant at my play,
And lose the thoughts of heaven and hell,
And then forget to pray?

What do I read my Bible for,
But, Lord, to learn thy will?
And shall I daily know thee more,
And less obey thee still?

How senseless is my heart, and wild!
How vain are all my thoughts!
Pity the weakness of a child,
And pardon all my faults.

Make me thy heavenly voice to hear,
And let me love to pray;
Since God will lend a gracious ear
To what a child can say.