Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Shocking Sermon to many, unfortunately

Thanks to Charley at HomeDiscipling Dad who linked to a sermon at a youth conference by David Washer of Heart Cry Missionary Society. You can download the text, audio and video if you prefer from here.

The sermon audio site mentions that he was not invited back and based on what I have seen and heard at most youth conferences you know why, the truth often hurts. I would pray that we would be as clear with the message God has given us with not only youth but adults. The sermon is about an hour but it worth the time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are you Homeschooling or Schooling at Home? Part 2

Matt has posted the second part of his article on “Are you Homeschooling of Schooling at Home?” He deals with the purpose and priority in homeschooling. It would be my guess that this is where many Christians make their error in homeschooling.

So often Christians defend the practice of homeschooling based on what God desires them to do and even will use scripture but their practice and goals look no different from that of an unbeliever. We have bought into the humanistic idea that education solves everything and the better educated we are the better off we will be. It amaze me how often we as Christians, me included, so easily buy into the world’s view of how things ought to be when we have the creator of the universe giving us the answers in His word.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov 1:7)

The wisdom and instruction that we are to seek is that which is from God. We need to homeschool so as to instill this understanding in our children and thus they can instill it in their children and so on and so on. This is not to say we are not educate out children and seek for them to do the best they can but it is to say we need to do this with the right purpose so that we achieve the correct ends, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

When we get trapped in the humanistic model of education the wisdom and knowledge of God becomes just part of the curriculum and I think children begin to just see it that way. Once children simply see the word of God as just more knowledge to have, on par with all other forms of knowledge, God’s word becomes little more than words on a page to remember. If this happens then we end up with generations that do not know God as we see spoken of in Judges 2:10. I pray that we will review the purpose and priority for homeschooling and seek for it to be what God would desire and not what the world desires.

Here is the link to Part 1: Are you Homeschooling or Schooling at Home? Part 1

Friday, March 16, 2007

John Newton on God’s Sovereignty and Sin

Justin Taylor, Between Two Worlds, has a blog post titled: If God Is Sovereign, and God Hates Sin, Why Does He Permit Sin? In his post he reflects on one of John Newton’s letters dealing with the issue of the sovereignty of God and the existence of sin or more precisely how to reconcile what we know as believers with what we experience.

Newton, if you have read about his life, experienced and perpetrated the sin that he later so very much detested. Thus, the question of God being sovereign and sin existing in the world would have been a very real part of Newton’s thinking and reflections. We would do well to listen to how God speaks through him, even today, to help us better understand this often difficult question.

The issue in the question often comes down to how to understand what we know and what we experience:

Newton says concerning the believer and the relationship or knowledge to experience:

In short, he is dead to the world, to sin, to self, but alive to God, and lively in his service. Prayer is his breath, the word of God his food, and the ordinances more precious to him than the light of the sun. Such is a believer in his judgement and prevailing desires.
But was I to describe him from experience, especially at some times, how different would the picture be! Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so; on the contrary, if duty, conscience, and necessity did not compel, he would leave the throne of grace unvisited from day to day. He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps while he is making the reflection, he feels a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down, and give his preference to a newspaper.

It is often our experience that leads to ask, How can it be?:

Newton says these issues lead us to ask two questions:

First,-How can these things be, or why are they permitted?
How they may be mitigated?

To the first he says, in part:

By these exercises he teaches us more truly to know and feel the utter depravity and corruption of our whole nature, that we are indeed defiled in every part. His method of salvation is likewise hereby exceedingly endeared to us; we see that it is and must be of grace, wholly of grace; and that the Lord Jesus Christ, and his perfect righteousness, is and must be our all in all.
His power likewise in maintaining his own work, notwithstanding our infirmities, temptations, and enemies, is hereby displayed in the clearest light, his strength is manifested in our weakness.

Satan likewise is more remarkably disappointed and put to shame, when he finds bounds set to his rage and policy, beyond which he cannot pass; and that those in whom he finds so much to work upon, and over whom he so often prevails for a season, escape at last out of his hands. He casts them down, but they are raised again; he wounds them, but they are healed: he obtains his desire to sift them as wheat, but the prayer of their great Advocate prevails for the maintenance of their faith.

Further, by what believers feel in themselves they learn by degrees how to warn, pity, and bear with others. A soft, patient, and compassionate spirit, and a readiness and skill in comforting those who are cast down, is not perhaps attainable in any other way. And lastly, I believe nothing more habitually reconciles a child of God to the thought of death, than the wearisomeness of this warfare.

Death is unwelcome to nature; but then, and not till then, the conflict will cease. Then we shall sin no more. The flesh, with all its attendant evils, will be laid in the grave, then the soul, which has been partaker of a new and heavenly birth, shall be freed from every encumbrance, and stand perfect in the Redeemer's righteousness before God in glory.

To the second he replies (this is just part of his answer):

Faithfulness to light received, and a sincere endeavour to conform to the means prescribed in the word of God, with an humble application to the blood of sprinkling, and the promised Spirit, will undoubtedly be answered by increasing measures of light, faith, strength, and comfort; and we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord.

I would encourage you to read the entire letter here and check out Justin’s blog to see the comments that he receives on Newton’s response to a question that is not new.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Family Time vs. Church Time

There is a good piece over at Al Mohler’s blog entitled: "The New Family Trump Card" -- Family Time vs. Church Time.

The piece references an article from the Leadership Report that speaks of the number of families skipping church for “family” activities. The idea is that family life with all its extra curricular activities is so busy that people opt out of church for the activities. But just as Al points out a significant part of the report is as follows:

Welker says the church isn't helping by segregating families once they arrive on campus. "Shouldn't we as a church try to bring families together?" Welker asks. "Instead what we do is bring them to church and then put mom and dad in this room, the high school kids in that room, and the elementary kids down the hall. It's no wonder families are spending more time doing family things than they are spending at church."

Holly Allen agrees. She is an intergenerational studies specialist at John Brown University. Despite recent interest in intergenerational church ministries, the trend of the past two or three decades has been toward age-graded ministries and the further stratification of generations. "In the past, spending family time and going to church were the same thing," Allen said. "Now, family time and church time are not compatible ideas, because families are rarely together when they are at church."

Al Mohler follows the above statement with:

This is a very important insight. When "church time" is seen as a competitor to "family time," something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.

At the same time, when Christian parents take their kids to Little League games rather than worship on the Lord's Day, these parents teach their children that team sports are more important than the worship of God.

Every kid has a "thing" going on virtually all the time. That is the condition of life today, it seems. But when that "thing" keeps the child -- or the whole family -- away from church, we need to name that thing what it is . . . at best a snare, at worst an idol.

Wow, for those of us that have seen this problem and want to do something about it we can only shake our heads with acknowledgement. The church has much work to do to change this trend. To get people to change a lifestyle that the church has in many ways fostered will I am afraid be uncomfortable for many, but it must be done. Not simply to bring people back to the church but to bring the family back to where God intends it to be.

We have to ask ourselves whether our church gatherings are a time where families are kept together or divided and then take the appropriate action. All too often the churches that promote themselves as “family friendly” are in reality the least friendly to the family as the bible would see the family.

Thanks Al for putting this article on your blog.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

More on Elders from 9Marks

There is more useful information on the subject of Elders at 9 Marks ministries in the March/April 2007 newsletter. Here is the link to the Web Newsletter and one for the PDF Newsletter.

Here is the link to the previous PDF version of the February Newsleter which was also on Elders.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

What Does a Family Integrated Church Look Like To Me - PT 7

One of the areas of importance in starting any church is that of membership. It seems today even the mention of church membership raises the hair on some people’s necks. The next response is usually to ask where in scripture it says that church membership is necessary and a chapter and verse is asked for. Well my first inclination is to ask if one needs a specific chapter and verse for everything we do because the truth is there are lots of things people do that do not have support of chapter and verse such as nurseries, youth groups and Sunday school. The truth is most people have what they would consider a biblical reason for these areas just as I see a biblical call for church membership.

So here is a short rundown of some of the biblical reason for church membership and the importance of it in the life of a God glorifying assembly of believers:

First is that the word for church is ekklesia which means called out ones. In the context of the church it refers to those called out by God (Eph 2:25).

So one of the things church membership does is to allow the church to set apart those who are believers and those who are not. If the church is to display God’s glory then those that are in the church need to be those that are His sheep. Now church membership does not make one a Christian and there will always be those that can fool the church but the general idea is that through the commitment to membership the church (visible) will better be able to discern those that are and are not believers.

A second reason for church membership is that calls it believers in the church to submit to their elders and leaders as well as support and honor them (Heb 13:7, 17; 1 Tim 5:17 & 1 Thess 5:12-13). The idea here is that there are Elders to be honored and people that the Elders are too lead

These would seem very vague commands if there were not specific elders and leaders over a certain group of believers. Membership lays out who those are to be led as well as who their elder is that they are to submit to and honor. I realize submitting to elders is probably a strange term in our individualistic age but Christ sets up His church as he sees fit and He has seen fit to have the church led by Elders as God defines Elders. It would also seem a strange command if it was simply to the church at large since then an Elder from some other area could have say over a group that they have never been associated with, I think not.

A third reason that church membership is a biblical principle is that the New Testament has 58 “one another” commands that would seem very difficult to follow, they are called commands, unless there was a specific group of people it was applying to and that group is the membership of a church.

Most of these commands are in the epistles which were written to local churches so in their context there is a local group of called out believers that were to care for one another. The truth of the matter is that the local church is to care for itself before those outside. This does not negate care for those outside the church but we are to start with those committed to a certain body. Even when Paul speaks of care for widows (1 Tim 5:3-16) it is for a specific group and not the church universal (even though the local church is part of the universal church). Again, this is not a call to shut the door to the world but is a call to care for each other within the context of the church. Remember that it is the love we show for one another that shows the world who we truly are (John 13:34-35). Church membership is then the avenue through which the care for “one another” can be accomplished to its fullest.

A fourth reason is church discipline. Now this for many is probably not a reason for church membership because it is a foreign or disliked concept. However it is a biblical concept since being held accountable is a very important part of church life. Again, I realize this probably steps on the individualistic toes of today’s culture but that is not reason to avoid it. There would seem to be two reason for accountability and church discipline the first is to keep and protect the purity of the church and the second to help the one who is in sin. In 1st Corinthians when Paul confronts the issue of the man having an affair with his fathers wife (1 Cor 5) and the whole issue of judging those inside the church (1 Cor 5:12) the goal is to show a difference in the church from the world and to bring the offender back into fellowship.

Without membership it would be very difficult to hold anyone accountable and to protect the name of Christ and the church. We are not called to go from church to church holding people accountable but to do so from inside. Due to so much laxness in church discipline we constantly see people avoiding the correction that God requires. Now I have heard some refer to God taking care of this in the end or that the Holy Sprit will deal with these issues and it is not our part. But I would say that the Holy Sprit is taking care of things through the church He empowers. We do no one any good if we let fellow believers wallow in sin when we are called to help them get out of their issue and the best way to do this is to commit to each other through church membership.

There are other reasons that are in scripture that call for church membership but here are a couple passages referred to in Wayne Mack’s book, that I highly recommend on church membership, called To Be or Not To Be A Church Member?

In 1Tim 1:18-20 Paul speaks of putting out or excommunicating people and without them actually being in something specific, such as a member of a church, this could not be done.

In Matt 18:15-17 we see the rules for church discipline and they could not effectively be done if one was not committed to a specific church which may be why this process is not effectively followed today.

Lastly, I would say that the signing of a document such as a church covenant is a good thing to do. But I will also say that this may be a culturally driven thing. The reason I say this is that if one were to commit to attend a Christian church in say China or Somalia I would say that there would be no real reason to sign a document simply the fact of being associated with a church in that culture is detrimental to ones life says a lot. However in our culture in the west the signing of a document is an attempt to add some level of commitment since ones word is of little value today as so few people, Christian or not keep their word. I might even say today that even signing a document holds less value than it did at one time. I think this is why it is good to make such things as church membership classes take some time and a level of commitment as this may be a way to see the commitment level of those wishing to join a church.

I would hope that what I have said would lead one to see what scripture says about God’s church. We need to remember that it is not our place to try and reconfigure Christ’s church but to the best of our ability be the church God desires and the one that best exalts his name. I realize that some may abuse the idea of church membership but that is no reason for us to neglect or avoid it. We are called to a mutual commitment to other believers in any local church and I think that we should strive for this as best we can and church membership is one of these ways.

Here are some other resources on the topic of church membership:

9Marks MinistriesArticles on Church Membership

The Biblical Evidence for Church Membership - Brian Schwertely

Why Should I Join A Church? - Jim Ellif

Past Posts on Family Integrated Church:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ministry, Marriage and Family

While reading Justin Taylor’s blog he had a good article by Wayne Grudem titled: Upon Leaving: Thoughts on Marriage & Ministry. It is not a new article but one worthy or reading. The issues he addresses is not just for those in ministry but it does deal with an issue that tends to be a particular problem with men in ministry.

It has been my experience both with me personally and with just observing others that often ministry takes precedence over family. This is usually justified, as I did, as valid since it was necessary to build God’s kingdom. I have also heard others use examples, both past and present, of well known Christian men who were away from home quite a bit due to ministry. The problem I have is that first of all just because someone may have done this and had their ministry be successful does not mean that we are all supposed to doe this. Secondly, because their ministry was successful does not mean it was the correct thing to do, it may have been but maybe not.

Grudem makes a good comment in his article:

I think that I failed to understand that, though the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church (Eph 5;23), a well functioning head has ears.

This means listening and not simply speaking and hearing words said back to us. We, as heads of the house may at times project a persona that hinders candid conversation with our wives. If we are not being a God glorifying head of our household have we disqualified us from ministry, especially as pastors? How many times do we hear of pastors kids being out of control? The fact that the mention of PKs can bring up images of kids living less than God glorifying lives should cause us concern.

I was listening to a sermon given by Voddie Baucham at Union University, “The Two Skills a Pastor Must Have", some time ago concerning elders and it was very convicting with regards to not only being the head of my house but being one that is the head the way God intends. Grudem’s article as well as Voddie’s sermon are well worth reading and taking to heart. Again, this applies just as much to pastors as others in ministry and even those in secular jobs. In this day and age of overwork how often do we, I have been here also, spend way too much time at work and very little at home. It is not just the time at home but how we send it that is important as well. It is not quality and quantity of time but I think the goal is both quality and quantity.

I would pray that as we come to understand our biblical responsibilities as heads of our houses that we as men would seek scripture for guidance and not the ways of the world. If we have to live with smaller houses, less cars and less toys then so be it. It is much better to be leading our families as God desires us to than to look successful to others around us. As Voddie mentions in his sermon we need to ask if we men that love our congregations more than our family. As pastors we need to make sure we are projecting the correct leadership and being a pastor that not only asks their members to care for their families in a biblical manner but also exemplifies it.