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In the dictionary worship comes right after worn, worn-out, worry, worrywart, worse and worsen. Sometimes on Sunday mornings worship follows the same sequence. Getting children and young people to the worship place is too often as far as we get in helping our offspring to worship. As the dropout rate of older kids indicates, there has got to be a better way! … Recently I listened to a group of parents share their frustrations with Sunday mornings. These were parents whose lives are given to Christian ministry–parents steeped in Scripture, parents committed to rearing their children in ways that honor the Lord. Even though I understood, my heart just broke as Sunday morning was described as “the worst morning of my week.” One mother confessed, “Sometimes I’m relieved to stay home if one of the kids is sick.” Another shared, “I’m just exhausted by the time I get to church.” –Robbie Castleman, Parenting in the Pew
Getting the tribe to church can be an exercise in herding cats, but with the added task of getting the cats dressed and fed! Still, this herding is important since the last thing you want your kids to think is that the light yoke of following Jesus is really heavy on Sunday morning. If anything should be joyous, it’s worshipping the Maker of heaven and earth. Joyous, however, doens’t mean easy. Here are 8 ways to make church, and getting there, better. (more…)
Temptations and challenges come to us in many ways—the job, the kids, the spouse, the neighbor, the family member, the car, the checkbook, the medical condition—to infinity and beyond!
Paul assures us: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). As much as you feel like the only one, you’re not. That’s comforting in a way. What’s even more comforting is the next verse, which is why he put it there: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way to escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Escape, you’re thinking, is exactly what I need right now! But it’s not that sort of escape, the kind where you pull a cord and disappear from the difficult situation. Rather, the escape is the kind where you are actually able to handle it, deal with it, held up by grace. You endure.
This is always easy to see and say from the outside, and extremely difficult to do so from the inside. The belly of the beast is acidic. This is why we must say it from the outside so that when pressed on all sides and distracted, we can remember. Players shoot thousands of free-throws in practice so when the fans are screaming and the game is on the line, they don’t forget how.
The ways of escape provided by God are as many as there are difficult situations. But each of them is laid hold of by our faith, our continued trust in a God who raises the dead: “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall” (Ps. 18:29).
The most exciting thing about seemingly impossible circumstances is our great privilege of being in them. If God won’t test you beyond your ability, and he says he won’t, then guess what? You’re up for it. No, you weren’t asked beforehand, but that isn’t important. We have no choice in this life but to be stretched because our maker will have it no other way. Of course this doesn’t mean that God somehow promises to withhold the consequences of our sinful or foolish actions, but it does mean he will bless us in the midst of even those. How much more should we embrace the chaos that comes from sanctified hard work and good desires–like helping the hurting, having many children, educating those children, and building a life? We are given and entrusted with these problems because we are equipped to solve them. So if and when you feel unready for the latest insanity, the good news is that it comes with on the job training. This is your promotion.
Paul assures the elders in Ephesus that soon they will have to deal with wolves. “I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). The question was not if, but when. And building a wall around the church would be no help; the trouble would come from among them. Paul pulls no punches, and one can imagine the look on the Ephesians’ faces as he told them about this pending internal conflict, not unlike the reaction the disciples had in the upper room when Jesus said one of them would betray him. Every church needs an immune system for dealing with the sort of people who have a desire to make disciples in their own name, not Jesus’, and are willing to attack the vulnerable in the flock to do it. “Be alert”, Paul says (20:31). But what does this look like? Some leaders anticipate this by cultivating a climate of suspicion. “Which one of you will betray me?” Much preaching today is consistently delivered this way, causing genuine and peaceable Christians to experience undue doubt about their motives and even their salvation. Being alert doesn’t mean being suspicious or thinking evil of another. Any body that would withstanding sickness needs first to be healthy. The best way to spot a counterfeit is to know the genuine article. “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (20:32). Every church will deal with division, coming from within, at some point, and being alert to this fact, the best preparation is an exuberant love for and knowledge of God and his gracious gospel. This is how you get ready for a wolf fight.
Many people I talk to can’t understand how many in Reformed community misunderstand the Federal Vision, especially when there is a plain statement demonstrating it’s orthodoxy. Douglas Wilson provides more clarity, juxtaposing a statements made by the URC and those found in the Joint Federal Vision Statement.
In his essay Calvin’s Covenantal Response, (in The Failure of American Baptist Culture) Peter Lillback writes concerning Calvin’s view of the law written on hearts by the Spirit. This summary is a wonderful treatment of the law against the Lutheran and neo-Lutheran:
Thus Calvin explains how one ought to compare law and gospel in his comments on Jeremiah 31:32ff. First, Calvin notes, one must recognize what the law is in itself–a rule of righteousness that only speaks to the ear as letter since it does not have the Spirit. But secondly, Calvin adds, this contrast ceases once the Spirit is joined with the law. It is then no longer letter, but actually spirit or the gospel itself. In fact, Calvin insists that it is not a new law that the Spirit writes on the heart, but the very same law that was once only letter. Therefore Calvin insists that the benefits of the New Covenant were even present in the law of the Old Covenant. To illustrate this, Calvin mentions John 1:17. If grace and truth have come through Christ and the law was of Moses, does this mean that these benefits were absent from the law? His answer is that even though grace and truth are only found in Christ, and the law doe not have them as benefits it can actually bestow, they were nonetheless present adventitiously. Simply, they were borrowed from the gospel. In light of this, Moses can be considered in two different senses. If he is considered without Christ in his narrow office (cf. comm. ad Rom. 10:4ff.) as lawgiver, his message was only letter and hence promised only death. But if Moses is considered in his whole teaching, he is seen to preach Christ as well. In that case, he must be considered as a preacher of the gospel, the same gospel as is found in the New Covenant.
Scott Brown’s election to the Senate in Kennedy’s former seat is astonishing. Just when it looked like Obama might actually get something done in line with his campaign promises, Brown from Massachusetts (of all places!) provides a firm stick in the spokes. While the president’s legislative agenda is all the buzz right now, what will have as much or more impact is Brown’s influence on the executive and judicial appointees as relayed here. Senator Brown, dig heels in and PULL. It will be fun to watch all the quasi-socialist-for-the-moment-democrats go back to their “moderate” positions. Who said change has to work all in one direction? Change we can believe in!
This week from the Family Policy Institute:
Legislators frequently propose things that I find redundant, wasteful, or counterproductive. Then sometimes they propose things that make me wonder if I live in America or Iran. A host of legislators led by Sen. Rodney Tom and Rep. Judy Clibborn are sponsoring bills (SB 6452 and HB 2837) aimed at harassing crisis pregnancy centers and revoking the first amendment rights of anyone in them. …
Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished, the supporters of these bills claim these clinics are a threat to public health. How? Well, apparently they don’t immediately disclose that they don’t provide abortions.
Read the whole thing here. It must be inevitable that those who would force their will, or allow others to force their wills, to take the life of unborn children would also take the right of free speech away from those who disagree with them.
Arthur F. Holmes does great work describing the changes in understanding education from classical humanism to modern science in his chapter “Francis Bacon: Modern Science and the Uses of Knowledge” in Building the Christian Academy.
So did Bacon succeed in uniting contemplation and action more closely than before? He connects them by making the creation mandate and the relief of human need the means by which learning should glorify God. The connection is not intrinsic to the sciences involved, but extrinsic; not an internal relationship that flows from their very nature but something external to them, an overall “add on” intended by God. It is a kind of “value-added” intended by God. It is a kind of “value-added” education, in which the value of learning is in science’s “practical” applications, not primarily in wisdom for its own sake, nor in transmitting a heritage of values that help shape character, nor in tracing the unity of truth and developing a world and life view. The focus in on what you can do with education in tangible, visible, this-life ways. It is not so much the liberal arts as the new mechanical arts, what we now know as technology and applied science, that are important for that is where power is most evident. Bacon, of course, did not intend the wholly utilitarian approach to education that the Industrial Revolution introduced, but intended to combine the new science with an improved humanistic education, thereby wedding wisdom to scientific discovery.
I’ve not read the Novum Organum yet, but if Holmes is right, it’s easy to see how Bacon’s view led to utilitarianism, which like pragmatism, is fine except that it doesn’t work. Contrast this “extrinisic” view of wisdom to that of the book of Proverbs where wisdom is as practical as avoiding cash advances and rotating your tires. Wisdom is not esoteric information, but broad enough to include skill and craftmanship. Bezalel was an artist filled with wisdom.
I also find this development interesting in application to church culture. Churches that live and die, or that think they live and die, by technology are tempted to think that “power” is revealed and harnessed in the embrace and employment of technology, a mistake which swaps the engine for the paint and leaves the most important things neglected. Opposite, the Luddites are usually suspicious of science and technology, and like the Scholastics left with their inane and self-consuming debates, end up a dying breed. Wedding wisdom to scientific disovery can only be done by seeing the agreement of faithfulness and ingenuity in education and indeed in all work. Creativity and discovery are Reformational fruits driven by sovereign grace.