Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Chapter 1—The Holy Scripture
1.1 The Holy Scripture is the all-sufficient, certain and infallible rule or standard of the knowledge, faith and obedience that constitute salvation. Although the light of nature, and God's works of creation and providence, give such clear testimony to His goodness, wisdom and power that men who spurn them are left inexcusable, yet they are not sufficient of themselves to give that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary for salvation. In consequence the merciful Lord from time to time and in a variety of ways has revealed Himself, and made known His will to His church. And furthermore, in order to ensure the preservation and propagation of the truth, and the establishment and comfort of the church against the corrupt nature of man and the malice of Satan and the world, He caused this revelation of Himself and His will to be written down in all its fullness. And as the manner in which God formerly revealed His will has long ceased, the Holy Scripture becomes absolutely essential to men. [Ps 19:1-3; Prov 22:19-21; Isa 8:20; Luke 16:29,31; Rom 1:19-21, 2:14-15, 15:4; Eph 2:20; 2Tim 3:15-17; Heb 1:1; 2Pet 1:19-20.]
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The main points:
Knowing God means to be in a covenant relationship with God, personally experiencing and enjoying the blessings of that relationship. We were created to have a relationship with God, and this relationship is a matter of grace on God's part (Gen 1:26-28).
Three biblical snapshots to fill out a little bit of the meaning of knowing God.
1. Moses (Exodus 33:7-34:9)
- Knowing God is a personal relationship.
- Knowing God involves knowing his revealed ways.
- Knowing God involves knowing his character.
2. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:7; 31:31-34)
- Knowing God requires having a regenerate heart.
- Knowing God is made possible by the forgiveness of sins.
3. Jesus (John 1:1-18; 14:6-9; 10:14-15, 27-29)
- God has made himself known supremely through Jesus Christ.
- Jesus is the only one who can make it possible for man to know God.
- He does this by laying down his life for those whom God has chosen to know. His blood brings the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah to bear upon us.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
In his work When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), historian Steven Ozment says, "Evidence of strong parental affection for children can also be gleaned from children's catechisms, especially those designed for use at home" (p. 170). He gives a couple examples of dialogues from the pen of Lutheran pastor and poet Erasmus Alberus which were written for his 3 1/2 year old daughter Gertrude. Here is one of them.
Alberus: Do you love Jesus?
Gertrude: Yes, father.
A: Who is the Lord Jesus?
G: God and Mary's son.
A: How is his dear Mother called?
A: Why do you love Jesus? What has he done to make you love him?
G: He has shed his blood for me.
A: He has shed his blood for you?
G: Yes, father.
A: Could you be saved if he had not shed his blood for you?
G: Oh no!
A: What would then have happened?
G: We would all be damned.
A: We would all be damned?
G: Yes, father.
A: O Lord God, it would have been bad for us poor people, if the Lord had not shed his blood for us.
G: Had the child Jesus not been born, we would be lost altogether.
A: Do you thank the Lord Christ that he has shed his blood for you?
G: Yes, father.
A: How? Tell me, child.
G: I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that you have become my brother and saved me from all want through your holy death. I praise you eternally for your great goodness.
Would to God that we had fathers today who would take such an active and affectionate interest in their children's eternal well-being!
V. Train your child to a knowledge of the Bible.
You cannot make your children love the Bible, I allow. None but the Holy Ghost can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make your children acquainted with the Bible; and be sure they can not be acquainted with that blessed Book too soon or too well.
A thorough knowledge of the Bible is the foundation of all clear views of religion. He that is well-grounded in it will not, generally, be found a waverer, and carried about by every wind of new doctrine. Any system of training which does not make a knowledge of Scripture the first thing, is unsafe and unsound.
You have need to be careful on this point just now, for the devil is abroad and error abounds. Some are to be found amongst us who give the church the honor due to Jesus Christ. Some are to be found who make the sacraments saviors and passports to eternal life. And some are to be found in like manner, who honor a catechism more than the Bible; or fill the minds of their children with miserable little story books, instead of the Scripture of truth. But if you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls; and let all other books go down and take the second place.
Care not so much for their being mighty in the catechism as for their being mighty in the Scriptures. This is the training – believe me – that God will honor. The Psalmist says of Him, “Thou has magnified thy word above all thy name” (Ps 138:2); and I think that He gives an especial blessing to all who try to magnify it among men.
I would like to note a couple things here. First, many of you know that I promote using a catechism for children. It is a solid, time-tested means of instilling doctrinal truth in our children. Nevertheless, Ryle’s remarks here are correct. A catechism must never take the place of the Scripture. The Bible is our ultimate authority. A catechism is only a means for expressing and learning its teachings.
Second, Psalm 138:2 is probably better translated as, “You have exalted above all things your name and your word” (ESV). The point is not that God has exalted his word above his own character and glory. In context, the psalmist is saying that he thanks God for his steadfast love and faithfulness. God’s “name and word” refers to his covenant promises backed up by his own character. Now I would hasten to add that although Ryle’s interpretation of this verse is slightly off, his main point is still entirely correct.
Ryle goes on to give specific hints on how to have your children read the Bible.
See that your children read the Bible reverently. Train them to look on it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, written by the Holy Ghost Himself – all true, all profitable, and able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
See that they read it regularly. Train them to regard it as their soul’s daily food – as a thing essential to their soul’s daily health. I know well you can not make this anything more than a form, but there is no telling the amount of sin which a mere form may indirectly restrain.
See that they read it all. You need not shrink from bringing any doctrine before them. You need not fancy that the leading doctrines of Christianity are things which children can not understand. Children understand far more of the Bible than we are apt to suppose.
Tell them of sin, its guilt, its consequences, its power, its vileness – you will find they can comprehend something of this.
Tell them of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work for our salvation – the atonement, the cross, the blood, the sacrifice, the intercession – you will discover there is something not beyond them in all this.
Tell them of the work of the Holy Spirit in man’s heart – how He changes, and renews, and sanctifies, and purifies – you will soon see they can go along with you in some measure in this. In short, I suspect we have no idea how much a little child can take in of the length and breadth of the glorious Gospel. They see far more of these things than we suppose. [Here Ryle adds this footnote. As to the age when the religious instruction of a child should begin, no general rule can be laid down. The mind seems to open in some children much more quickly than in others. We seldom begin too early. There are wonderful examples on record of what a child can attain to, even at three years old.]
Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the word dwell in them richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young.
Here are some important applications for us as parents.
1. We are responsible to see to it that our child read and learn the Bible. We must direct them to read all of it reverently and regularly. Now let me ask, Do you read all of the Bible reverently and regularly? If not, how do you expect your children to come to love and know the Word of God?
2. Also, make sure you build into their little lives the habit of reading Scripture. Set aside time for them every day to read the Bible and pray. Give them direction on how to do it, and do not be afraid of applying loving pressure to counteract their innate laziness in this regard.
3. Think about the important ramifications of this statement that Ryle makes: "Any system of training which does not make a knowledge of Scripture the first thing, is unsafe and unsound." Does the education you are giving your children make the knowledge of Scripture the first thing?
4. Let me also emphasize Ryle’s insistence that children can learn these things. We certainly must teach them gently and in a manner suited to their inexperience. Nevertheless, it would be a great mistake to deprive them of this teaching under the pretence that they are too young.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The thought of v. 44 is the negative counterpart to v. 37a. The latter tells us that all whom the Father gives to the Son will come to him; here we are told that no-one can come to him unless the Father draws him (cf. Mk. 10:23ff). And again, it will be Jesus himself who raises such a person up at the last day. The combination of v. 37a and v. 44 prove that this 'drawing' activity of the Father cannot be reduced to what theologians sometimes call 'prevenient grace' dispensed to every individual, for this 'drawing' is selective, or else the negative note in v. 44 is meaningless. Many attempt to dilute the force of the claim by referring to 12:32, where the same verb for 'to draw' (helkyo) occurs: Jesus there claims that he will draw 'all men' to himself. The context shows rather clearly, however, that 12:32 refers to 'all men without distinction' (i.e. not just Jews) rather than to 'all men without exception'. Yet despite the strong predestinarian strain, it must be insisted with no less vigour that John emphasizes the responsibility of people to come to Jesus, and can excoriate them for refusing to do so (e.g. 5:40). (The Gospel According to John, 293)
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
(HT: Between Two Worlds)
I was an expert in child rearing for many years, until we had our first child. I think it was in 1991. Upon poking his head out of the womb, the boy promptly began screaming at me at the top of his lungs, and he didn’t take much of a breather for about two years. Most young parents quickly discover that when children emerge from the womb, they scream, they yell, they leak, and they do rude things to others. In short, there is some assembly required, and my son was no exception to the rule. He especially liked to scream . . . almost all of the time. Long trips were especially miserable, as he would scream for 3, 4, or 5 hours at a time. Eventually, we found that fitted ear plugs were quite handy to help us keep a sanctified composure during these torturous automobile rides. The first time we tried them out we were amazed at the special tranquility that would so quickly settle over the entire automobile, with the exception of the contorted red face of one small, still-screaming child straining against his car seat in the back seat.
Although I have yet to achieve the expert status in child-rearing that I held before we had children, here are a few lessons I have learned on the topic:
- Raising children is a shaping process and it takes time. Just because you didn’t see immediate improvement over ten weeks doesn’t mean you won’t see it after 10 years.
- Consistency always pays off.
- Some children are a factor of one hundred times more difficult than others.
- Every child will go through a different sequence of difficult times and easy times. There is no pattern that fits all children alike.
- The Bible (and specifically the book of Proverbs) is the best book on child rearing.
He also says:
I have seen young parents emerge from the latest set of seminars on child-rearing with a list of sure-fire methodologies from some homeschool guru, hoping that this will serve them well as a recipe for success. Some gurus call for timed feedings for babies and disciplined schedules, while others call for demand feedings and flexible schedules – each claiming that theirs is the best way to apply biblical principle. But sure as shootin’, the minute you get your list dialed in perfectly, God will give you a little child who will blow the paradigm all to shreds. For this reason, I recommend using multiple counselors and resources to find helpful suggestions in the child raising department.
For parents just starting out, I would recommend teaching your children to take their cues from you at home. If you have trained them to obey you on the first command (without complaining) at home, it will be easier to control your child with hand signals, facial expressions and simple commands when you’re away from the home. Obedience is the first, basic lesson; and if a child does not learn this lesson, God promises that things will go badly in every other part of life. (Eph. 6:1-2)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; and the sun shall cease to shine; but the spirit which dells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to speak as a man) will depend on you.
This is the thought that should be uppermost in your mind, in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement, that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, “How will this affect their souls?”
Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet, and pamper, and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to, and this life the only season for happiness – to do this is not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast of the earth, which has but one world to look to, and nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth, which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy, that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul.
“Do it for the children!” That is the banner under which almost every conceivable social agenda is advanced today. Of course, this presupposes that it is important to do things for our children. And parents today believe this with a vengeance. Our children simply must have every possible experience and advantage – sports, drama, music, the best education, cell phones, cars, computers. We wouldn’t want our poor little Johnny to grow up deprived, because we all know that this leads to delinquency, drug use, low self-esteem, and who knows what else.
Of course, I am being facetious here. But it is rather ironic that in our society parents just assume that their children must have these things, while at the same time they do next to nothing for their children’s souls. Actually, our children don’t need a computer in their room and a car when they turn 16. But they do need godly character and wisdom. They don’t need the latest and greatest trendy education, but they do need the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is precisely what Ryle goes on to talk about next.
A true Christian must be no slave to fashion, if he would train his child for heaven. He must not be content to do things merely because they are the custom of the world; to teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely because it is usual; to allow them to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody reads them; to let them form habits of a doubtful tendency, merely because they are the habits of the day. He must train with an eye to his children’s souls. He must not be ashamed to hear his training called singular and strange. What if it is? The time is short – the fashion of this world passeth away. He that has trained his children for heaven rather than for earth – for God rather than for man – he is the parent that will be called wise at the last.
So if you want to be considered a wise parent when both you and your children stand before God, consider well whether you are training them for eternity. Yes, it is good and proper to equip your children with the skills needed in this life. But do not let our society dictate to you what your children must learn and how they must be taught. I believe this is why so many parents are afraid of things like home schooling. They feel the pressure that society puts on them to conform.
But we must never forget that as Christians, we have a much different goal than our society, and hence we have a different agenda. We are not here to produce nice little citizens for the state who will be productive consumers. Our goal is to produce followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's always keep this end in mind.
Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Thirteenth Year
By Anna Sofia Botkin
Most of you girls are embarking on a monumental season in your life: the season of transition from beautiful girlhood to noble womanhood. This is also the season that brings new knowledge of good and evil. It brings a stronger awareness of our “crooked and perverse generation.”
As John Adams put it in a letter to his daughter Abigail when she was approaching her thirteenth birthday, it is “a time when the understanding opens, and the youth begin to look abroad into the world among whom they are to live.”
Of all the generations you could have been born into, of all the centuries, God chose for you to live in this one. Let me tell you a little bit about the generation that God placed you in.
There is a generation that curseth their father and doth not bless their mother.... There is a generation, oh, how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. (Proverbs 30:11&13)
This generation is arrogant; it has no respect for its parents, for its heritage, for authority. They are blinded by their pride.
Isaiah 3:12 says, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.”
The fact that we have women ruling in the civil and judicial spheres, and are possibly on the verge of facing the dictates of a female chief executive, shows that America is in an advanced state of apostasy and judgment. And rebellious, out-of-control children are a scourge and a shame to the nation.
The women of our generation have forgotten how to be women and how to be mothers. Some of the most important lessons we learned about womanhood this year, we learned together on the Faith and Freedom tour of Plymouth this past Fall. I learned that the current women of America are not just lesser women than their pilgrim mothers, they are the perfect opposites of their pilgrim mothers.
Where they used to be strong, now they are weak. Where they used to be models of sturdy virtue, they now are examples of flimsy immorality. Where they used to understand the importance of children and selflessly sacrifice for them, now they murder them in the womb as a sacrifice to their own selfishness. And the majority of Christians nod their heads in approval. This is your generation, and mine.
As evil as this generation is, many thirteen-year-old girls feel an uncanny attraction to it, and a desire to be approved of by it. I know I did. Our generation is out to get us, with their glossy magazines, TV shows — every medium of communication they have — they have used to ensnare thirteen-year-old girls.
This year you will see a lot of evil. Your parents will continue to protect you, but there are things and facts that you will become aware of just by living in this generation. We’re all tempted to get used to evil, the more we see of it, and be desensitized to it. We can’t hide from evil and pretend it isn’t there; but when we do see it, we have to see it with the Lord’s eyes. This is one of the most important things that my father taught me. Every time we see it, it should be even more despicable to us.
In this stormy generation which will try to shipwreck you, God has given you two wonderful gifts. Two things will help you keep your heart pure and enable you to see evil with the Lord’s eyes:
1. Intimacy with God and His Word and His Law. Immerse yourself in the Scriptures and pray that God will give you purity and wisdom.
2. Intimacy with your parents. A spirit of gratitude and honor for your parents will guard your heart and could preserve your life. I cannot stress this enough.
Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
“Well with you” doesn’t mean you will have everything you want. It means you will have everything you need. It means having complete inner peace, joy, happiness, and the enjoyment of God’s support in whatever you do. It means even when things seem to be going badly, God comforts you and gives you grace. It means being spiritually happy.
Here are some other blessings the Lord promises to send which are listed throughout the Bible: length of days and long life, spiritual peace, prosperity, happiness, wisdom and knowledge, honor and glory, spiritual safety, spiritual eyesight, and success.
You’ve probably heard many times that you need to “give your heart to your parents.” What does it actually mean to give your parents your heart?
The heart, called “the seat of the affections,” is the source of all passions, desires, loves, interests, likes and dislikes, convictions and opinions. Proverbs 23:26 says, “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.”
God wants our hearts and all that they contain to be surrendered to our parents — and ultimately to God — to be molded and directed.
This is not possible unless you talk to your parents and let them know your heart and tell them about everything that you hold dear. This is that year that you need to purpose to communicate more and better with your parents than ever before. Tell them everything. Be an open book.
Making yourself vulnerable in this way requires trust. You must trust your parents, that they ultimately desire what is best for you, and that they are qualified to lead you and guide you simply because they are your parents chosen by God to raise you.
It also requires faith that God will lead you through your parents, imperfect though they are. And faith in God’s promised blessings for your obedience.
When your parents have your heart, you will truly “delight in their ways.” You will love what they love, hate what they hate, and desire their approval and company and even “think their thoughts after them.” You can learn a lot about seeking God’s will and God’s mind by doing this with your parents in your thirteenth year. This is called “seeking after the hearts of your parents,” just as King David was “a man after God’s own heart.”
Similarly, your parents’ hearts should be able to trust in you, as it says in Proverbs 31, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her....” This means that they will have confidence in your obedience, when they are watching and when they’re not, that you will demonstrate loyalty to them and to everything they have taught you, in what you speak and do, in public and in private.
My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life.... (Proverbs 6:20-23)
It’s especially important that daughters radiate devotion to their parents when they are with their friends. And when it comes to choosing friends, the best advice that I can give you is to gravitate toward the girls that have respectful attitudes toward authority and even reverent attitudes toward their parents and your parents.
In my lifetime, I have spoken to a lot of young ladies, and it amazes me how quickly one can tell, sometimes just in one conversation, how much or how little a girl reverences her parents. Some girls drop “innocent” or “affectionate” comments that betray a belittling and dismissive spirit. They might refer to their dad as if he were a ridiculous little brother or speak disparagingly of their mother’s restrictions.
This is not honor! This is dishonor. Feel free to lovingly correct girls who do this, but please don’t choose them as role models or intimate friends. Attitudes are the quickest things to rub off onto us.
I realize that I am putting a lot of emphasis on the relationship between children and parents. I don’t believe it’s possible to put too much emphasis on a relationship that is ultimately an earthly reflection of the relationship between the Eternal Father and the Eternal Son. The goal of our relationship with our parents is a better relationship with God.
The virtues we learn by being good daughters to our fathers on earth help us in being good daughters to the King and prepare us for this life and the life to come. Learning to be good ambassadors, to be faithful, to be trusting, and to have a yielded heart with our earthly fathers will teach us to relate this way to our Heavenly Father.
We need to make the God of our parents our God as well. We can’t forget the purpose, or we’ll start thinking the whole reason we obey our parents and behave ourselves is to impress our parents’ friends and to be “the best kids.” This is one of the dangers of being a second-generation Christian... which I am and you are. The examples in the Bible show that it’s easy for second-generation Christians to lose the vision.
When I was young, I often felt there was nothing left for the second generation to do, except “keep Christianity in the family.” I felt like my parents had already done all the pioneer work. They were both saved out of non-Christian homes, and had to figure out how to build a Christian family from scratch. All the excitement and adventure and discovery was theirs; our job was just to keep from dropping the ball, and keep our children from going back into the world.
Then, when I was thirteen years old, my family moved to New Zealand, and the seven years I spent there taught me that our family’s Christian warfare has only just begun. Our parents had to fight for the right to raise their children to be soldiers. Now it’s our duty as soldiers to win the war, ours and our descendants’. Everything our parents have done doesn’t give us less to do — it gives us more to do. Luke 12:48 says, “...For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
My father believes that the twenty-first century will be the Asian century. In your thirteenth year, you are being given the opportunity to wage war in a leading Asian nation. Korea can be pivotal in God’s plan, and you have the rare opportunity to learn about God’s elect in that nation and to bless them by your example as a kingdom-oriented Christian daughter. Please keep in mind your ambassadorial role as these needy people watch your life. You represent America’s providential history, her Western legacy, her home-schooling pioneers, your important family, and Jesus Christ Himself.
The duty of all second-generation Christians is to stand on their parents’ shoulders and succeed them; to go further and conquer new ground — to make new biblical discoveries, to reach greater heights of theological precision, to root out even more worldliness of thinking and living, to have more obedient Christian families, and to extend Christ’s dominion into every nation. And this will leave plenty for our children to do, and even our great-great-grandchildren.
In the beginning of my speech, I talked about our generation. It is perverse. It is odious to God. He is grieved and offended by it. But God had a purpose in putting us into it. Abigail Adams wrote to her son John Quincy:
These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues.
As you learn more about our evil world, it’s right that you should be repulsed by it, but it would be wrong for you to be afraid of it. Because one day, Lord willing, your thousands of millions of descendants will possess its gates.
Here is what Smith has to say about teenage (and also adult) religion in the U.S.
Here we attempt to summarize our observations by venturing a general thesis about teenage religion and spirituality in the United States. We advance our thesis somewhat tentatively as less than a conclusive fact but more than mere conjecture: we suggest that the de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what we might call "Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism." The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews, sounds something like this:
1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (pp. 162-3)
Smith goes on to list key aspects of this de facto religion.
First, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. (163)
MTD [my abbreviation] is, second, about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents. This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one's prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God's love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, etcetera. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people. (163-4)
Finally, MTD is about belief in a particular kind of God: one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one's affairs - especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved. (164)
What does Smith conclude from all this?
...It appears that only a minority of U.S. teenagers are naturally absorbing by osmosis the traditional substantive content and character of the religious tradition to which they claim to belong....[A] significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity's misbegotten stepcousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This has happened in the minds and hearts of many individual believers and, it also appears, within the structures of at least some Christian organizations and institutions. The language, and therefore experience, of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, Eucharist, and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at least, to be supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward. It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith. (171)
There is a great deal we can learn from here, but the major lesson I want to mention here is that we must be relentlessly biblical in building a culture of faithfulness. It is all too easy to maintain the trappings of Christianity while losing the substance. And this leads me to another application for Christian parents. Do not rear your children according to the world and pop Christianity. You may well produce nice, happy children who do not know God. Let's remember Deuteronomy 6:4-9!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Living out our Christianity requires us to live out a robust and full-orbed theology.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Jonathan Edwards, the great colonial era preacher, evidently thought the same thing. Ryan Martin posts some of Edwards' challenging thoughts on this topic here.
This is J. C. Ryle's third application of Proverbs 22:6, and an important admonition it is. This is not the place to get into a deep discussion of the relationship between God's providence and grace and our own efforts. Suffice it to say that Proverbs 22:6 clearly places responsibility upon our shoulders to train up a child in the way he should go.
Here are Ryle's words.
Grace is the strongest of all principles. See what a revolution grace effects when it comes into the heart of an old sinner; how it overturns the strongholds of Satan - how it casts down mountains, fulls up valleys, makes crooked things straight, and new creates the whole man. Truly nothing is impossible to grace.
Nature, too, is very strong. See how it struggles against the things of the kingdom of God, how it fights against every attempt to be more holy, how it keeps up an unceasing warfare within us to the last hour of life. Nature indeed is strong.
But after nature and grace, undoubtedly there is nothing more powerful than education. [Ryle means by this all forms of training, not merely formal education.] Early habits (if I may so speak) are every thing with us, under God. We are made what we are by training. Our character takes the form of that mold into which our first years are cast.
We depend in a vast measure on those who bring us up. We get from them a color, a taste, a bias which cling to us more or less all our lives. We catch the language of our nurses and mothers, and learn to speak it almost insensibly, and unquestionably we catch something of their manners, ways, and minds, at the same time. Time only will show, I suspect, how much we all owe to early impressions....
And all this is one of God's merciful arrangements. He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay. he gives them a disposition at the starting point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted hat you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger's. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good. See that the opportunity be not neglected and thrown away. Once let it slip, it is gone for ever.
Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen, that parents can do nothing for their children; that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still. These persons have wishes for their children in Balaam's fashion - they would like them to die the death of the righteous man, but they do nothing to make them live his life. They desire much, and have nothing. And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.
Allow me to pause here in order to emphasize what Ryle has just said. I recall one father and mother who prayed earnestly for their son to follow the Lord, but did not make the real life, hard decisions which were necessary to train him in the way of righteousness and wisdom. They would, for instance, tell him not to hang out with fools, yet would allow him to spend much of his time with foolish friends. Not surprisingly, this son, now grown, lives like a fool. Did God not hear their prayers? I assure you that God did know their prayers, and he gave them the means to deal with the situation, but they did not use those means. If God wants us to dig a hole in the ground and hands us a shovel, then it doesn't make much sense to sit down with the shovel across our knees and pray to God that there will be a hole in the ground. Get up and dig!
Ryle continues: I know that you cannot convert your child. I know well that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I know also that God says expressly, "Train up a child in the way he should go," and that He never laid a command on a man which He would not give man grace to perform. And I know too that our duty is not to stand still and dispute, but to go forward and obey. It is just in the going forward that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We have only to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water pots with water, and we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.
Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh... (Philippians 3:2-3, ESV).
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Now why would homosexual activists want to sponsor such an initiative? They stated their rationale this way. "For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation ... The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine," said WA-DOMA organizer Gregory Gadow in a printed statement. “If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage."
In other words, these sodomite activists are attempting to use a type of argument known as reductio ad absurdum, a "reduction to absurdity" of the idea that marriage is for the purpose of procreation. Obviously, if they can eliminate ideas of procreation from marriage, then that will be one less barrier for them to claim that they have a right to be "married." They want to prove that marriage is not for the purpose of procreation. So, according to the statement quoted above, here is how their argument runs.
"The purpose of marriage is solely procreation."
"This implies that all marriages must procreate in order to fulfill the purpose of marriage, and thus be valid marriages."
"But it is silly or absurd to think that all marriages must procreate in order to be valid marriages."
"Therefore, the purpose of marriage is not procreation."
Do any of you logicians out there see the flaw in this argument? It lies with one little word - "solely." In order for this to be a valid argument, the word "solely" must be in the conclusion. The argument must run like this:
"The purpose of marriage is solely procreation."
"This implies that all marriages must procreate in order to fulfill the purpose of marriage, and thus be valid marriages."
"But it is silly or absurd to think that all marriages must procreate in order to be valid marriages."
"Therefore, the purpose of marriage is not solely procreation."
This is a formally valid argument. But this is not the argument that homosexual activists want to make, for all "social conservatives" would agree with this argument the way it now stands. As Christians who want to think biblically, we too could agree with this argument. We do not claim that procreation is the only purpose for marriage. Thus, their whole argument is built on a false representation of what we believe.
There is another problem with the sodomite argument. It is what we might call "comparing apples and oranges." In the statement quoted above, Gadow said, "If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage." But this is not a comparison of the same kind. Same-sex couples cannot have children by the very nature of the case. Their union in inherently sterile. But normal couples cannot have children only if something goes wrong. The sodomite argument is incoherent and irrational.
But since they have raised this topic, I do want to help us to think about it a bit further. Let's ask a couple questions. First, what is the biblical purpose (or purposes) for marriage? Second, what is the relationship between procreation and marriage? We will deal with the first question first.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The apex of his creative work was a creature made in his own image. God called this creature “man” and gave him a specific job to do: reproduce and rule the earth. In order to accomplish this purpose, God specifically made man with two distinct and complementary types, male and female. The male was created first out of the dust of the earth, then the female was created from his side in order to be the helper that fit with the male. God brought them together in a one flesh relationship, and on the basis of God’s actions we learn that God intended one man and one woman to function together in a sexual (reproductive) and economic (productive) covenant relationship for life. This covenant relationship is called marriage, and we can summarize the purposes for marriage in this way. (1) Marriage’s primary historical purpose is to enable the male and female to rule the earth together for God (Gen 1:26-27). Intrinsic within this purpose are two sub-purposes: to reproduce God’s image bearers (Gen 1:28), and to enjoy companionship with each other in the process (Gen 2:22-23). (2) Marriage’s eschatological purpose is to display by analogy the relationship of Christ and his church (Eph 5:32).
Having this foundation, we can now address the second question. What is the relationship between marriage and procreation? We have already said that procreation is not the only purpose for marriage. However, we must also see that procreation is a central purpose of marriage. The Bible says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). So what was the first thing God did with this male and female that he had made? "And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion...'" (Gen 1:28). God's blessing on them was that they would reproduce His image-bearers who would be able to exercise dominion over the rest of creation. Procreation is not an optional part of God's plan for marriage. The first thing, then, that we note about the relationship between marriage and procreation is that the intended result of marriage is procreation.
But that is not all. We also learn from Scripture that marriage is the only legitimate context for procreation. All forms of conception and child-bearing which fall outside of the bounds of an exclusive marriage relationship are illegitimate.
Since this is so, does it follow that marriages which do not produce children should be annulled? My answer is no, for an important biblical reason. That reason is that the Lord, not the man and woman, is ultimately in control of the fruitfulness of the womb (Gen 17:15-19; 29:31; 1 Sam 1:5, 19-20; Ps 127:3). In a sinless world, we might suppose that every marriage would be fruitful with children, but that is not the world we actually live in. Because of sin, our bodies do not always function the way they were designed to function. In fact, it is only the grace of God that keeps us functioning as well as we do.
Before I close, I would like to highlight one thing that this homosexual challenge to God's design for marriage does reveal. I believe it shows that our society's rejection of God's design for marriage began long before we had to debate such oxymoronic things as "same sex marriage." One of the aspects of this rejection was a rejection of procreation as a purpose for marriage. Here is one area in which these homosexual activists might help us think about marriage. Perhaps those couples who intentionally, willfully, and selfishly reject all childbearing should have their marriages annulled. That would certainly change the debate on marriage in our society today.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Welcome to the family of God, Kristen!
Here are a couple great hymns we enjoyed that express well the significance of baptism.
(Tune: Old Hundredth)
Is it thy will that I should be
Buried in symbol, Lord, with thee;
Owning thee by this solemn sign,
Telling the world that I am thine?
Gladly I yield obedience now;
In all things to thy will I’d bow;
I’ll follow where my Savior led,
And humbly in his footsteps tread.
This emblematic, wat’ry grave
Shows forth his love-Who came to save;
And as I enter it, I see
The price my Savior paid for me.
Forth from thy burial, Lord, I come,
For Thou hast triumphed o’er the tomb;
Thy resurrection life I share—
My portion is no longer here.
O may I count myself to be
Dead to the sins that wounded thee,
Dead to the pleasures of this earth,
Unworthy of my heav’nly birth.
Lord Jesus, when I gaze on thee,
And all thy radiant glory see,
That joy will far exceed the shame
I bear on earth for thy loved name.
Come, Ye Who Bow to Sovereign Grace
Come, ye who bow to sovereign grace,
Record Immanuel’s love;
Join in a song of noble praise
To him who reigns above.
Once in the gloomy grave he lay,
But, by his rising power,
He bore the gates of death away;
Hail, mighty Conqueror!
Buried with him beneath this flood,
We glory in his death:
We own our great incarnate God,
And rise with him by faith.
As saints of old confessed his Name
In Jordan’s flowing tide,
So we adore the stricken Lamb,
Renouncing all beside.
No trust in water do we place,
‘Tis but an outward sign;
The great reality is grace,
The fountain blood divine.
St. 1-2, 4-5, Maria De Fleury
St. 3, Charles Spurgeon
Saturday, February 03, 2007
The article deals with Joel Osteen, pastor of the huge Lakewood Church in Houston. I say this honestly and not with spite, that if Joel Osteen knows the gospel, he certainly does a good job of never saying it. He appears to be a newer version of Robert Schuller, whose "positive thinking" amounts to a denial of the gospel. And so I say to you earnestly, Do not believe the false teaching of these men.
Ancient History According to Students:
Without the Greeks, we wouldn't have history. The Greeks invented columns and myths. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until be became intolerable. Achilles appears in The Ilian, by Homer. Homer also wrote The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.
Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.
In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath.
There were no wars in Greece, as the mountains were so high that they couldn't climb over to see what their neighbors were
Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul.
Music History According to Students:
Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel.
Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was very large.
Bach died from 1750 to the present.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
It is sad to see those outside the kingdom looking for identity, looking for belonging in such pointless ways. Sadder still, however, is that the same kinds of ties bind too many of us within the church. We call ourselves Christians, but we are more loyal to our favorite football team (and its fans) than we are to Christ and those He has bought. We call ourselves Christians, but what gets our blood pumping the most on any given Sunday is when our team advances in the playoffs. We call ourselves Christians, but we would rather spend our time with a peer group defined by age, gender, and socio-economic status. We call ourselves Christians, but we define ourselves, and those around us, by just about anything but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (R. C. Sproul, Jr., "We Are Family").
[I]n the oddest anthropological phenomenon of all, our cultural artifacts are shaped not by adults but by children. Teenagers set our cultural fashions. In every other culture, elders determine the fashions, make the music, and tell the stories. With us, adolescent children make the culture....The result is that our adult culture is infantilized. Adults try to be like children, instead of vice versa, as is the case in normal cultures. All of this is, of course, pathetic, ridiculous, and embarrassing to actual children (Gene Edward Veith, "Family vs. Culture").
II. Train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience.
I do not mean that you are to spoil him, but I do mean that you should let him see that you love him.
Love should be the silver thread that runs through all your conduct. Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys – these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, these are the clews you must follow if you would find the way to his heart.
Ryle’s words are right on target. Love is at the heart of the Christian ethic, and this includes the way we treat our children. We might think of 1 Corinthians 13 here. If we have all the latest scientific evidence about training children, but lack Christian love, we are nothing. If we follow “all the rules” for producing good kids, but do not have godly love, we gain nothing. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7, ESV). How are you doing today at training up your child with love?
Ryle continues: Few are to be found, even among grown-up people, who are not more easy to draw than to drive. There is that in all our minds which rises in compulsion; we set up our backs and stiffen our necks at the very idea of a forced obedience. We are like young horses in the hand of a breaker: handle them kindly, and make much of them, and by and by you may guide them with a thread; use them roughly and violently, and it will be many a month before you get the mastery of them at all.
Now, children’s minds are cast in much the same mold as our own. Sternness and severity of manner chill them and throw them back. It shuts up their hearts, and you will weary yourself to find the door. But let them only see that you have an affectionate feeling toward them; that you are really desirous to make them happy and do them good; that if you punish them it is intended for their profit, and that, like the pelican, you would give your heart’s blood to nourish their souls – let them see this, I say, and they will soon be all your own. But they must be wooed with kindness if their attention is ever to be won.
Next, Ryle adds some words which are apropos for earnest young parents. If you are like I am, you desire almost to the point of aching for your children to “love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always” (Deut 11:1). In that case, we can easily try to force this to happen in a day. But it doesn’t work that way.
Ryle says, We must not expect all things at once. We must remember what they are, and teach them as they are able to bear. Their minds are like a lump of metal – not to be forged and made useful at once, but only by a succession of little blows. Their understandings are like narrow-necked vessels; we must pour in the wine of knowledge gradually, or much of it will be spilled or lost. Line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, must be our rule. The whetstone does its work slowly, but frequent rubbing will bring the scythe to a fine edge. Truly there is need of patience in training a child, but without it, nothing can be done. Nothing will compensate for the absence of this tenderness and love…. You may set before your children their duty; command, threaten, punish, reason; but if affection be wanting in your treatment, your labor will be all in vain.
Love is one grand secret of successful training. Anger and harshness may frighten, but they will not persuade the child that you are right; and if he sees you often out of temper, you will soon cease to have his respect. A father who speaks to his son as Saul did to Jonathan…need not expect to retain his influence over that son’s mind.
Try hard to keep a hold on your child’s affections. It is a dangerous thing to make your children afraid of you. Anything, almost, is better than reserve and constraint between your child and yourself, and that will come in with fear. Fear puts an end to openness of manner; fear leads to concealment; fear sows the seed of much hypocrisy, and leads to many a lie. There is a mine of truth in the apostle’s words to the Colossians. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col 3:21). Let not the advice it contains be overlooked.