Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Great Book to Read at Christmas




Last year I picked up the book On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius.  This is a short read (about 100 pgs) that I highly recommend, especially the edition with an introduction by C.S. Lewis.

In the book, Athanasius defends the need for God to come to earth as a human and builds a case against pagans who would laugh at this "absurd" notion.  And who better to write on the topic than Athanasius, since he is best known for his relentless fight for the belief in the deity of Christ. In fact some say that he alone stood in the gap to protect Orthodoxy against ultimate corruption.


As a result, he faced much persecution.  As Bishop, he was in and out of exile four more times, spending a total of 15 years away from his work in Alexandria.  But even in exile, he was able to redeem the time,   fellowshiping with monks, eventually writing a 'best-seller' about the life of Antony, one of the first monks. Many would see an exile as time wasted, but God used Athanasius' writings from this period to lead many to faith in Christ. In fact, his book on Antony played a key part in Augustine's conversion!

I can say from my experience teaching through the book of John in Rwanda that there really is nothing sweeter to the soul than to dwell on the person and work of Christ.  Reading this book will help you dwell there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Books to Read with your Son... or Daughter

Since college I've dreamed of reading through The Chronicles of Narnia with my children some day.  We've already been able to pick our way through most of Prince Caspian, which has been a joy.  But I've been surprised by how many other books my son has been able to enjoy already.  I've listed a few of my favorites below.

Pilgrims Progress - This is a new edition of the 300 year-old classic work, re-published by Crossway.  I picked this up at a recent conference, though I almost went with a more kid-friendly version with more pictures and less text.  This version has 30 high quality illustrations spread throughout the 200 page book.  The pictures look like many paintings you'd expect to see hanging on the walls of a mega-Baptist Church.  They are pleasant to look at and keep my son's attention enough to last him through 10-15 pages of text. Which is quite surprising, since the language of the book is only 'lightly edited' from the original.  There are long sections of theological discussion, most of which I read word for word, and yet he keeps asking for more.  I don't really have a category for this.  Maybe the length of the Bending Light book (mentioned next) prepared him for this. 

You can read a sample chapter as well.


Journey to the Bending Light by Todd Sorrell.  This book came into FamilyLife, but the radio program  rarely features fiction, so I took it home to see if my son would want to listen to it.  Boy did he ever!  He was hooked from the first page.  I was so surprised because this was one of the first long form books without many pictures in which he was interested.  The story is set in a make believe world, where a boy has to journey through seven "circles" (or lands) to arrive at the final destination - the bending light (a euphemism for heaven).  It's a good read and drives home many important character truths.  Some were even moving to read for me, such as seeing the consequence of sin portrayed in such vivid ways (like the chapter on the allure of  'toys' for both children and adults, and how they erode the soul).  I must warn you that this book, as well as King Lear (see below) and even Pilgrims Progress for that matter, has a fair amount of violence.  It seems that people die quite a bit in this book (because they do).  I honestly wondered if I shouldn't have pulled back a bit, since I don't want him becoming de-sensitized to violence at such a young age.  But I decided to keep reading, since most of the violence was either fantastic (i.e. mythical beasts dying) or the result of sin, rebelliousness, and foolishness.  When it was the latter, I wanted to talk about it!


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas - at 1312 pages, it's a big bite of book to take on.  I started reading and discussing the book with a friend of mine earlier in the year.  One evening my son asked me about it, so I summarized the plot up to that point (I was at 200 pp or so).  He then asked me to start reading to him.  He sat and listened for 30 minutes that night.  Every night thereafter for a week or two, he would ask me to read more.  Eventually, around the 500 page mark, the pace of the story began to slow (though still very gripping for adults).  So I would read after he went to bed, and then summarize the story for him the next day.

I recommend the book, and of all the long, classic literature novels I've read, this one is definitely the most gripping.  It is a page turner and does not have the long political discourses of other works.  However, If you've not read the unabridged Les Miserables by Hugo, then you should consider it as well.  I've not read any other book with so many shocking plot turns.  Truly a masterpiece.  (Note - Hugo does go off on a few 50 pg political rants.  Feel free to skim through those!)  I'll write more in a later post about the importance of reading good literature.

King Lear by Shakespeare.  For those parents who haven't already introduced their pre-school children to Shakespeare (because, come on, really, what good parent hasn't?!) then this would be a good intro.  Actually, we just stumbled upon it at the library... oh the glorious library!  But beware, it's not written for a 5 year old.  It's Shakespeare's original words, but depicted in a graphic novel form, and set on the early American frontier (instead of Britain) with Lear cast as an Algonquin Indian chief.  Yes, I'm serious.  The illustrator is witty with the collision of styles, blending Victorian dress with Indian motiffs.

And in all actuality I do not think I would recommend reading this with most 5 year olds.  We got about 1/2 way through the book and the brutality and nuance of the dialogue was just too difficult to translate.  But the images are pretty stunning and kept his attention until that point.  Now for those adults who have always wondered what Shakespeare was really saying, you may find this and others in the series quite entertaining!

Buy some books

My dad recently snapped a photo of this sign and thought of me:




So in order to help those who "have a little money" and are thinking ahead to the books they may want to read next year, in the coming days I'll be posting about a few of my favorites reads of 2009.  If it's not too late, you can add them to your Christmas wish list!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grudem on the Poverty of Nations


I recently returned from the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in New Orleans.

It's a pretty intense conference and unlike any other event I've ever attended.  The meeting allows for many of the evangelical academic leaders to gather and discuss various theological issues and to build relationships.   It's a fun but exhausting atmosphere, as there are roughly 500 academic papers presented in three days.  Since you can't attend them all (nor would you want to), you have to choose wisely.  Usually, my mind is fried by about 2 or 3 PM each day, trying to absorb all the deep content.

One of the better presentations was a paper by Wayne Grudem titled "Fifty reasons why poor nations stay poor."   I had heard him share on this topic years ago in an ethics class and was excited to hear more. 

Though the talk from ETS is not available, you can listen to the longer version, in 4 parts, that he gave to his Sunday School class here:

50 Factors within nations that determine their wealth and poverty.

You  can also download the message outlines here, and on the class website.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Driscoll on Idolatry




I am WAY late on posting this.

But... the message Mark Driscoll gave on "Ministry Idolatry" at the Advance '09 conference (video here) had a profound effect on my life. It is well worth the time to listen to it.

A helpful follow-up post to the conference was by Piper on Idolatry.  Also worth reading and evaluating.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pastor Dad

On the flight home from Rwanda, I read one of Driscoll's new "books" (at 45 pags – it's really more of a long pamphlet) called Pastor Dad. This is a book that was written to be given away, and can be downloaded for free here. I really admire big time Christian pastor guys who give away books. It says a lot about their character. (Incidentally, Rick Warren, after his Purpose Driven Life book sold like hand sanitizer at a mom's convention, wrote a check back to the church for his salary up to that point - all 20+ years. And Dennis Rainey has given every penny of book royalties back to FamilyLife for ministry use – well over 1 million dollars).

So I read the book and it was interesting – though a bit heavy handed at points (which is to be expected at times with Driscoll). There were some parts that will resonate with many (Italics are my comments):

"The safest place for children is with a man who fears the Lord."

"Before any father disciplines his children, he is commanded to delight in them." This is so true, and would solve many discipline problems men face with their children.

"One night while tucking my daughter into bed, I asked her, 'What should a good daddy do?' She said, 'A daddy should make a lot of money, read his Bible, teach his kids, love his kids, be silly and have lots of fun.'" – Well said!

"A wise dad may realize that a personal quiet time for himself is unwise; rather than hiding away in a quiet place to read the Bible, it is often best to do so in the noisy living room where the kids can see and climb on their dad while he reads his Bible." - This reminds me of a man who had it as his goal that his kids would always find him studying his Bible at the kitchen table when they woke up. One of his Children recalled that they could only remember a handful of times when he wasn't doing that very thing.

He also tells a great story (Ch7) of how he disciplined his out of control son and restored their relationship in the process. He concludes the story with the biblical truth that it is the father's role to "lovingly lead their children toward heartfelt repentance of sin." These two pages (35-36) are worth reading for every father.

A few good pointers along the way and lots of encouragement to be a man. Might be a good resource to pass along and discuss with other men in your church. But please review it yourself before doing so.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Bit of Wisdom

Appearances are deceiving.  Things are not always as they seem.  I've had too many conversations with men that seem to be walking the walk, just to watch their marriages disintegrate later as they pursued suppressed passions, those not put to death at an earlier time (Rom8.13).  Of course, I've seen many women do the same.  The sad part is, this tendency rests in the heart of us all, the tendency to be man pleasers instead of God pleasers.  The tendency to look the part, yet be dreaming of another world on the inside.

Once again, a bit of ancient Jewish wisdom from Rabbi Nathan to pull us back to center:


There are four types [of disciples] among those that frequent the study house:  One takes his place close to (the sage) and is rewarded; one takes his place close to (the sage) and is not rewarded.  One takes his place at a distance (from the sage) and is rewarded; one takes his place at a distance and is not rewarded.


One engages in discussion and is rewarded; one engages in discussion and is not rewarded.  One sits and keeps quiet and is rewarded; one sits and keeps quiet and is not rewarded.

If one takes his place close to (the sage) so that men might say, “There’s so-and-so drawing close to and sitting down before a sage,” he is not rewarded.

 If one takes his place at a distance so that he might honor someone greater than he, he is rewarded.

 If one takes his place at a distance so that men might say, “So-and-so has no need of a sage,” he is not rewarded.

 If one engages in discussion in order to understand and learn, he is rewarded.

 If one engages in discussion so that men might say, “So-and-so engages in discussion in the presence of sages,” he is not rewarded.

 I one sits and keeps quiet in order to listen and learn, he is rewarded.

 If one sits and keeps quiet so that men might say, “There’s so-and-so sitting quietly in the presence of sages,” he is not rewarded.

So one appears to be learning, but is merely self promoting.  One appears to be serving, but is self-serving.  Motives can be difficult to discern - even our own. 

I remember years ago i was invited to a man's house to meet a church-planting missionary.  I was excited to go, but I ruined the party.  It didn't occur to me until months later that I had just wanted everyone to see how much I knew.  As I talked with this man about church and theology, it was all about me.  It had nothing to do with anyone else there.  What fun, to watch a guy trying to puke up every bit of information he has stored on a topic.  How sad.

Yet great men, like Billy Graham, are life-long learners.  A man who studied him, even wrote his PHD dissertation about his evangelism techniques, had an opportunity to meet Billy Graham.  Once BG found out about the PHD, he began to ask this man to help him improve his evangelism.  The man was dumb-struck, "but I learned everything I know from you!"  Yet BG would not let up, he wanted to improve.


So how can one know that they are motivated out of pure intentions?  Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal 5.16).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Actions of a Wise Man

Rwanda has a heavy respect based culture.  Sure, this can be abused and lead to a superiority complex in some, but the concept is good.  It plays out in many aspects of life, like the way people shake hands (looking down and slightly bowing) or hold a conversation (always waiting for others to finish - not rushing to interrupt someone).

This morning I read from an ancient Jewish text called The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan.  In it is a description of a wise man:

Seven qualities characterize the wise man: 

  1. He does not speak before him that is greater than he in wisdom or in age.
  2. He does not break into his fellow's speech.
  3. He is not in a rush to reply.
  4. He asks what is relevant and replies to the point.
  5. He speaks of first things first and of last things last.
  6. Of what he has not heard he says:  "I have not heard," and is not ashamed (to admit it).
  7. And he acknowledges what is true. 
A few comments:  

Over the last year I've tried to be intentional to follow #5.  Many are guilty of answering questions that no one is asking - or of merely rambling on about something to display your knowledge, rather than actually answering the question.  This has been a challenge for me and I'm praying for growth.

Also, related to #6, the Lord provided some amazing examples for me in the form of a professor and two fellow students in Phoenix.  All three of these men are incredibly bright and have a wealth of knowledge, yet they were never ashamed to admit ignorance of a matter.  They were hungry to learn and for that I am grateful.  A weak, insecure man (i.e. myself for many years) is afraid to admit ignorance, because he is more concerned about appearing wise than actually being wise. 

May we seek knowledge and hunger for wisdom, so that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5.6)!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some Reflections on Rwanda




Just returned from the most AMAZING trip to Rwanda.  The country has made unbelievable strides from the 1994 genocide - it's really quite remarkable.  My personal observation is that they have been able to move forward because of their willingness to embrace the past and learn from it.  The government continues to encourage the people to talk about their genocide experiences - to remember what happened and share it with the world.  Not in a bitter way, but in a way that brings healing.  They have a number of genocide memorials and burial grounds throughout the country.  It's hard to believe that this country is so small (about the size of Maryland, yet with 9 Million people - most densely populated African country) because the hearts and the vision of the people are so big.

I returned home to a birthday gift from my parents - Churchill's six volumes on WWII.  In Volume 1, The Gathering Storm, he states, "it would be wrong not to lay the lessons of the past before the future."  He called WWII "the unnecessary war," for he believes there was never a war more easily avoidable.  So the Rwandan people are moving forward by remembering the past and using it to heal.  They are preserving a horrific memory and allowing it to drive them towards a new future together.  And you can feel a buzz about the future all over the country.  "Vision 2020" is a program promoted by the government, and everyone is talking about it.  I was in a home in a small village in a very rural part of the country, and they even had a poster about it on their wall (very close to a 2-Pac poster).

And the priorities of the government seem right - symbolized by the still bullet ridden parliament building.  A dictatorial regime is more interested in appearances than reality.  They want to appear strong - so they build big palaces and neglect the people.  In Rwanda, they left the Parliament building full of cannon holes (even 15 years later), and are instead filling the holes in the roads and electricity grid.  This is the power of remembering.

This stands in stark contrast to Theodore Roosevelt.  I finished a gripping biography about him while in Rwanda called The Rise of Theodore RooseveltIt's a book I think every man should read and, if possible, read it with your son.  But his response to the tragic loss of his wife was to end the chapter of his life and never return.  At 24 years old, he was serving in the NY state legislature.  His wife died giving birth to his first son with a month left in his term.  Weighed down with sorrow, he finished his term and set forth on a 5 week western expedition in solitude.  But before leaving, he penned a tribute letter to his wife, then went west and grieved.  When he returned from the trip, he never spoke publicly about his first wife again.

I shared this story with a man I met in the airport in Nairobi.  He was returning from a 5 week tour of Eastern Africa - a trip he had dreamed about for years.  His first wife left him years ago and he was still healing.  He went alone to find recovery and restoration.  After telling him the story, I thought he was going to cry.  He shared that he went to Africa on a mission - to Climb Killimanjaro.  Part of the mission was to reach the top and burry a letter he wrote to close the very painful chapter of his life involving his divorce and the death of his father.  He spoke of his excitement to return home to his girlfriend, who is now expecting (coincidentally, we share the same due date of May 10th).  We flew to Amsterdam and re-united there to chat more.  While walking around the airport for over an hour (to stay awake) he shared that he was buying an engagement ring in the airport - BIG STEP!

I started reading the book, Adopted into God's Family on the plane ride home.  It's a theological evaluation of the doctrine of adoption.  The most beautiful part of this book is the reminder that God is the perfect father.  Though we all have failures in our family:  divorce, death, bad parenting experiences, difficult children, we can depend on God to be the perfect Father, and we can learn from Jesus how to be the perfect Son.  While in Rwanda I taught pastors about the Gospel of John.  I couldn't get over how often Jesus talks about his Father in the book.  Every time he taught the disciples or a crowd, he goes on and on about his Father (try circling the word "Father" in your Bible in the book of John and see where it show up the most).  In chapters 14 and 15, he's teaching the disciples before he heads to the cross, and all he can talk about is his Father.  Their love for one another is perfect and pure, and even in our messed up, war riddled world we can depend on their example.

One of the more striking things to experience in Africa is seeing men holding hands.  It is a common practice for men, who are just friends, to hold hands.  In America, that means one thing:  homosexuals.  But how beautiful to see pure love displayed by the simple act of holding hands.  Close friends showing camaraderie and intimacy publicly.  This struck me as a good thing - and was especially meaningful when my son, while walking through the airport, instinctively reached up and grabbed my hand.  It was good to be home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rwanda

I'm in Rwanda doing some teaching this week.  Pray for me!
It's 4:37 AM and a rooster is crowing outside my window.  That would be ok if I had slept at all in the last 40 hours  (I did get 3 hrs on the plane... that was 24 hrs ago).
Lots of excitement already, including a wild taxi ride, a sawed off shotgun, and drunk man complementing my blue eyes (no, we're not back in Phoenix).

Beautiful country, even in the dark - and very helpful people.
PRAY!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Binders and the Decleration of Independence



This is my son and his binders.  He's been filling them up with all sorts of important papers.  The two light colored binders are dedicated to his parents.  He said he keeps important things about us in them so he can remember us if we accidentally die.  Important things like old church history notes and pictures of crocodiles - things that will make him think of us.

The red binder holds his copy of the Declaration of Independence.  He was absolutely giddy to have his own copy printed out today.  He said "The Stephens (friends with 12 kids) won't believe this!"  I don't remember much about my 5th year of life, but I know that there really wasn't anything more exciting than carrying personal copies of constitutional documents.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Are you Safe and Secure?

I almost didn't watch this video



I'm so glad I did.

The best line:  "I learned that being available and being willing is enough."

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Butterfly Circus




Stars Eduardo Verastegui from Belah (read his story here) and Nick Vujicic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review: This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

Working with a marriage ministry, and knowing that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of new marriage books published each year, I was giddy to get my hands on the new marriage book by John Piper. If you've read any of Piper, you'll come to find much of what you love about his writing in this book. Instead of tips and tactics, it is a careful theological treatment of the purpose of marriage.

The verse he uses as the title for the book reminds the reader that marriage is a temporary condition – since the scriptures make it clear that there will be no marriage in heaven (Matt 22.30). This sets up his central premise in the book, one that is repeated over and over again, because of Noel's (his wife) encouragement. When asked for advice on the book, she said "You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church." Piper goes on to say that not only is marriage a model of Christ and the church, but that the deepest meaning of marriage is to display Christ's covenant keeping love to the world. He says, "Staying married is not mainly about staying in love. It's about covenant-keeping."

I had a strong reminder of this covenant-keeping love in my kitchen this week. My parents were in town visiting for a few days. My mom was up first one morning, reading her Bible at the kitchen table. When she heard my father stirring, making his way to the kitchen, she stood and eagerly awaited his arrival. He entered the kitchen and they embraced. As I watched my parents hold each other close, I flashed back to those moments as a five-year-old when I found great comfort and security in their affections. They could not wait to see each other again after a night of sleep. Even though I am an adult, I am still moved with feelings of comfort with each of their covenant-enduring embraces.

For Piper, seeing marriage primarily as reflecting Christ's covenant-keeping love also shapes his view on divorce. He believes that divorce should be extremely rare, and that re-marriage is prohibited while your spouse is living. He defends the view well (and also clarifies that he is in the minority among evangelicals with this view) in chapters 14 and 15. He says, "If the blood-bought church, under the new covenant, ever ceases to be the bride of Christ, then a wife may legitimately divorce her husband." Though in the Old covenant, God sent Israel away with a decree of divorce (Jer 3.8), in the new covenant, Christ says "I am with you always" (Matt 28.20) and "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb 13.5).

This view of marriage also informs our parenting – for if marriage reflects Christ's love for the church, then what does that say about the Father? Ephesians 6.4 reminds fathers to bring up their children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." It also says "do not provoke them to anger." Why this specific instruction to fathers? Piper says, "Dad embodies authority. Apart from Christ, the child embodies self-will. And when the two meet, anger flares." He offers this encouragement. "Even more important than avoiding the obvious aggravators, we fathers should think about what kinds of preemptive things we can do that don't just avoid anger but diminish or remove anger. That's the real challenge." He continues, "Don't just stop doing things that provoke anger; start doing things that prevent and overcome anger."

So many men struggle with anger because of their fathers, but all men have a chance to "sever the root of the whole cycle of anger by savoring to the depths of your soul the preciousness of God's forgiveness and God's promises… Show them in your own soul how it can be replaced with tenderhearted joy" (p150-154). Why is forgiveness so powerful for breaking down anger? Anger says, "You owe me something before we can be right." Forgiveness says, "I am taking the initiative to restore our relationship and remove any debt between us." The father is the adult and it is his role to seek forgiveness – to model Christ like love in all of his relationships. And as you seek to overcome anger, you model the Father's love by being the one that seeks and grants forgiveness quickly, willingly, and often.

My one disappointment with this book was that Piper did not share more stories from his experiences with his wife. I know from a few friends that have spent time around John Piper that his marriage has endured many difficulties and challenges – enduring a very dry season. I would have loved to have heard specifics about how they fought through such a season. But I think this book is his answer: the way he fought through the dullness was to come to understand the theological basis for marriage. And as he gained a greater appreciation for the nature of Christ's love, his love for his wife was renewed and strengthened.

There is so much more in this book that could be unpacked here, such as his handling of roles and singleness, both of which are extremely helpful. For now it is safe to say that the book is worth reading for every married couple. And the timing of this reading was especially encouraging for me, as my wife and I celebrate TEN YEARS of marriage this week!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Master of the Metaphor

I've been listening to Tim Keller preach through the book of John (to prepare for my trip to Rwanda – to teach through the book) and I've been continually amazed by his masterful use of metaphor (or real-life examples that illustrate his point) in preaching. Below is one example used during his sermon on worship (this quote is not word for word, but based on my best recollection):

"My 7 year old son has a cabbage patch doll [this message was given in 1991] that brings him great comfort. If you were to offer him a Brownstone home here in New York City in exchange for that doll, the best you would get from him is a slight hesitation. But at the end of the day, he would not give up that doll. 'How foolish!' you cry. 'Absurd!' you proclaim. Yet we are no different. We hold on to the little things that bring us comfort, yet are of infinitesimal value in comparison to the value of a life given over to Christ. You rightly ascertain that this child has no sense of perspective. He's not able to comprehend how much more that home will serve him for the rest of his life. All he knows is what seems to bring him comfort now. And we are no different."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: Perspectives on Family Ministry

Southern Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, has been working to develop their Family Ministry program. As a result, they've commissioned the writing of a book, edited by Timothy Paul Jones, called Perspectives on Family Ministry. This is an area of great interest for me and I was grateful to be able to review a pre-release copy of the book (due out in October). In the book, they attempt to give an acceptable definition to "Family Ministry" (no easy task) and present what they believe to be the three most common models for family ministry in the church. The three models are as follows:

Family Integrated
: "In this approach, all age-graded classes and events are eliminated… Generations learn and worship together, and parents bear primary responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children" (p42). Those who promote this model (Voddie Baucham, Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, and Paul Renfro) believe that the church has become far too fragmented, undermining the Biblical mandate for families to worship God together.

Family Based
: "No radical changes occur in the church's internal structure… [rather] each ministry sponsors events and learning experiences that are intentionally designed to draw generations together"(p43). This model most closely reflects the modern church approach of a collection of compartmentalized ministries to children, youth, singles, adults, and the elderly. But the Family-Based approach attempts to make some effort within each ministry (though still separate attempts) to draw the generations together.

Family-Equipping
: This term was coined by the editor of this book and it is the approach Southern Seminary is promoting in their new Family Ministry degree programs. In this model, "Church leaders plan every ministry to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children's lives, asking 'What is best for families?' at every level of the church's ministry…. [this model] reworks the church's entire structure to call parents to disciple their children at every level of the church's work." (Some promoting this model are Jay Strother, Brian Haynes, Steve Wright, Ben Freudenberg). This model may or may not require that some programs/ministries be dropped or significantly altered within the church. It all depends on what the church decides when they ask 'What is best for families?'

As mentioned above, the book is definitely trying to make the case for the Family-Equipping model as the approach churches should embrace. But I found the writing and logic presented in the chapter defending the Family-Integrated (FI) model most compelling. Here's just a few of the strong arguments put forward by Paul Renfro (author of the chapter defending the family-integration model) that were not adequately refuted by the other authors in this volume.

  • "Age-integration creates a network of meaningful multigenerational relationships." The author argues that "never in Scripture do we find an example of systematic age segregation in temple, synagogue, or church. In fact, we find the opposite…" (p.68). The results demand careful evaluation: "The fact is that the age-segregated structure has consistently failed to reach and to retain youth and children… The largest rise in full-time youth ministers in history has been accompanied by the biggest decline in youth evangelism effectiveness" (p91).
  • The FI model most closely resembles the biblical precedent of the home being the primary place where evangelism and discipleship of children is meant to occur.
  • The FI model helps to re-establish the church and the home as the primary influences in a teenager's life. In a culture where "Schools, media and peers are the 'disciplers' of American's children," this model re-elevates the importance of the influence of adults – both for the children and the adults. The fact that it calls the adults up to this role may be more important than what it does for the kids. He also states "In some cases a young person is so tightly connected to a youth group that he or she is more committed to that youth group than their own family" (p74).
  • The FI model frees up more time for families to spend together and to focus on doing ministry together. Since families are not overly busy with church-based programs in the FI model, they are free to reach out to the community in creative ways as a family.
  • Singles are intentionally brought into families where healthy family relationships can be modeled. The author argues, "Why would we want to isolate singles in a singles group? Such a practice assumes that the primary place where singles and single moms feel comfortable is with people like themselves. Yet singles need interaction with older saints who have traveled further down the road to maturity." I can speak from experience that though I loved spending time with other youth in our church youth group, the main reason I went was to spend time around the youth minister and his wife. And of all my youth group memories, the ones I cherish the most are those of the youth minister allowing me to come into his home and just experience life around his family.
  • The FI model is most easily transferred across cultures, since it models the structure of the family, something that exists in all cultures.

No question that the FI model is also most likely to be immediately rejected by most churches, since the change appears to be the most radical departure from the way the majority of churches do ministry. The hardest part of moving from a Family-based model to the FI model is retraining the parents. Parents have become so conditioned to the drop-off the-kids-and-let-the-church-train-them mentality, that it will take many, many months of meetings to help them capture and embrace a new vision for the primacy of the home in child training. Of course, even a move towards the Family Based model would be incredibly beneficial to any church. Either model, the FI or the FB, strives to get at the root issues underlying the lack of spiritual depth in today's churches. At the root is the problem of the incongruence between church and home.

The following quote by Richard Baxter sums up the importance of embracing one of these models in today's church (found on p65):

"Get master of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labor, but will much further the success of your labors… You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase."

– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, p93.

If you are a pastor or have some ability to influence your church's philosophy of training youth and children, then I highly recommend you read this book and wrestle with the concepts it presents.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Boy-Man


He looks like such a little man in his tie. It's his first day in a tie - and he asked to wear it. It's a manly thing to wear a tie - because someone has to teach you how to tie it. Boys don't spontaneously start putting ties around their necks. Someone has to teach them.

Now that he's five, I've started talking to him more about what it means to be a man. Wearing a tie doesn't necessarily make you a man, but you don't usually see knuckleheads running around in ties. Maybe in the 50's, but not so much these days. So we're talking more about the differences between being a boy and a man. Things like ALWAYS being respectful towards your mother. ALWAYS treating ALL women with respect and kindness. Being grateful for all things - in all situations. These are the main things we're working on these days... Because boys naturally want to stay boys. A boy doesn't become a man on his own. It takes a man to pull them up towards being a man. A boy will watch and read dribble his whole life, unless a man helps him develop an appetite for manly things - like great literature, poetry, hard work, and Jesus. Things that do not come naturally for a boy - and things for which a father must be willing to fight.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Crossbearer


One benefit of lying awake a few hours at night (something that has happening with increasing frequency) is the extra reading time. This weekend I picked up a book that has been staring at me for sometime - the faith/conversion story of Joe Eszterhas. Joe is a screenwriter whose movies have made over a billion dollars (that's right - BILLION with a B.) But these weren't feel good movies like The Princes Bride, or something spiritual like The Passion of Christ. His were pretty much the extreme opposite - ones like Basic Instinct and Showgirls (and if you've not heard of either, you can probably guess their content based on the titles).

His book Crossbearer is a memoir of this journey from self-reliance to Christ-reliance. His story doesn't go into great detail about his days in Hollywood, but he shares enough to let you know that most nights followed the same routine: different girl, lots of coke (and not the classic kind), a fifth of gin, and lots of cigarettes. Since this routine isn't part of The Maker's Diet, you can imagine that his health was not the best when he hit 50. The story begins when he is diagnosed with throat cancer, comes to the end of himself, and cries out for God's help.

This is not your normal "I'm a Christian now and everything is perfect" story that one might expect. He shares his struggles and failures as he continues to learn what it means to live as a Christian. Some of his struggles are humorious - like the time that he hauled a guy out of church - yelling at him to never bother him again, or how he wears Rolling Stones T-shirts while carrying the Cross up the aisle (primarily, it appears, to irritate the more prudish/legalistic members of the congregation). Other parts are sad, like the fact that he is still estranged from his oldest daughter, having recently let three years pass without sharing a word together because of a disagreement over her boy friend.

What was refreshing about this book was his perspective on the importance of being in a community of believers - and his willingness to accept the good with the bad. He attends a catholic church, and started attending in the midst of the pedophile-priests scandals. He rightly emphasizes the horrific nature of this tragedy, yet he's not willing to cast aside the church because of it. Each time he starts to send anyone connected with the church down the road (a practice he perfected as a hard-driving screen writer), he has a conversation or an experience where someone is quick to remind him of his flaws and inconsistencies. His humility in this regard is refreshing... is the church full of hypocrites? Of course, but we are all hypocrites on some level.

He also tells of his flirtation with an evangelical mega-church and their all-star, leading man power-pastor. The experience left them wanting: "Yes, the sermon had been great... but as moving as the sermon had been, that's how empty the service itself had felt." Even though they had been struggling through the 5-minute homilies at the Catholic church, they were ready to run back. They missed the community they had developed, and more importantly, they really missed taking communion. He says,

“We had talked so much about the lack of powerful, moving homilies in the Catholic church, and here we had experienced as powerful and moving a sermon as it was possible to experience… and we suddenly didn’t care about it. We cared about trying to find a Mass [to take communion]. The powerful sermon ultimately didn’t matter. We needed Communion, the body and blood of Christ, like two starved vampires needing to feed on Christ’s grace."

He is no perfect man, nor is he a theologian, so don't expect that you will agree with all of his views. This book is not perfect either - having a fair amount of profanity gracing its pages - and no chapter breaks (but still reads well). Overall it is a refreshing, engaging read that left me encouraged because of the power of Christ to take a man, who was dying in spirit and body, and make a new creation. When one considers how far Mr. Eszterhas has come, it is a humbling and inspiring story.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Do Again

Just listened to a powerful story of a couple that remarried after being divorced for seven years. I was pretty emotional at the end when she described the moment that they told their twin daughters they were going to get remarried. What a story!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

You can order their book here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Faithful Son

My son brought me this trading card today:

He said he found it on the street.
Clearly the providence of the Lord!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Getting to Know Calvin


Friday July 10th was John Calvin's 500th Birthday. Quite a milestone for the man. Many blog posts have circulated in his honor. I have benefited greatly from his works and wanted to pass along a few ideas on how to get the most from all his years of labor in the scriptures.

Reading Calvin's Institutes - While in college, I joined two friends in a study of the book Disciplines of a Godly Man. The best part of reading this book was what I found in the back. The author (R. Kent Hughes) interviewed a number of well known Christian leaders (like R.C. Sproul, Chuck Swindoll, and Eugene Petterson) and asked them, "What books, apart from the Bible, have been influential in your life?" I've often tried to discover what books shaped famous people and read those (for instance, Reagen pointed to Witness and Churchill cited The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as most influential). The most often mentioned book by these authors was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, but a close second was John Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion. Since being involved in that group, I've wanted to read the Institutes and have finally made it around to it this past year. I only read a few pages a day - but they are powerful pages. And it is surprisingly readable: it seems Calvin's intent was to write for the layman. He answers the charges of the day in a way the common citizen can easily understand. I highly recommend taking the next year or two to read through this work. You can either buy this fancy two-volume work, or this more affordable combined version.

Calvin's Commentaries
One of the more useful things I learned in seminary was the value of Calvin's commentaries. Wayne Grudem told me, in the midst of working heavily on the ESV Study Bible, that he often begins with John Calvin's commentaries (before a modern commentary) when seeking further clarification on a passage of scripture. You can purchase the entire set in hardback here, or you can access them on online for free at ccel.org.

The Master of Geneva
Calvin has often been misunderstood, both in his theology and in his governing of Geneva. There are many biographies available on Calvin, but last year I read a novel on his life called The Master of Geneva. If you have wanted to read more on Calvin's life, this would be a great book to pick up. However, good luck finding it, since it is out of print. I borrowed it from the church library, and I imagine most seminary libraries would have it. You can find them used online here and read a review of the book here

You can also download a well acclaimed biography on Calvin from Desring God Ministries for free here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alexis de Tocqueville's Birthday


I receive a daily email from American Minute. It is worth signing up to receive these daily nuggets of american history, which serve as a great reminder of the amazing heritage we have in this nation.

Today the post is on Alexis de Tocqueville, born this day in 1805. De Tocqueville was a French social scientist who traveled to America to observe the country and try to discover what makes it unique and prosperous. His classic work Democracy in America is the summary of his observations. In it he says the following:

"Religion in America... must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it... This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but it belongs to the whole nation."

De Tocqueville added:

"There is no country in the whole world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence than in America... and nothing better demonstrates how useful it is to man, since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest."

Read the entire post here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hunting Eichmann and a few other books

I was back in Louisville for a week this summer and able to take a trip to the bookstore with mom (a height of the trip for both of us I think). We came home with three books, one of which I could not put down: Hunting Eichmann (which we learned about from Al Mohler's summer reading list). The book tells the story of the search for Adolph Eichmann, one of the lead implementers of the Nazi's "Final Solution," who escaped capture and trial at Nuremberg. He amazingly was able to hide in Germany for five years before fleeing to Argentina. Much like the book Manhunt (on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth), if it were not for a few blunders, one wonders if Eichmann would ever have been found. It's a fascinating read and a page turner, and written with a unique balance of suspense. The rhythm of the book was such that each time it seemed the group capturing Eichmann was in the clear; another challenge loomed large and renewed the suspense.

But the negative part of reading a book of this type is that I inevitably begin rooting for the guy on the run – no matter how heinous of a criminal he may have been. It happened in Manhunt, and it happened here. It must be because of the nature of wanting to root for the underdog, or for the person that seems helpless. But what makes this author unique is that he will not let the reader stay sympathetic towards Eichmann. He has a keen sense for rhythm in this book, as he seems to be able to predict the points at which his reader is starting to pull for Eichmann. At this point, he reminds the reader of the horrible acts of genocide Eichmann approved, encouraged, and performed. This was no man to be pitied. He destroyed humanity and displayed no remorse – even 15 years later, as a feeble old man.

This writing style reminds of the singular command given in the first three chapters (the theological part) of the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 2.11 charges us simply to "remember." One word – one command – REMEMBER. Paul's charge is to remember everything that is true of a Christian in light of what is true of those who are "in Christ" (as outlined in Ephesians 1.4-11). In Hunting for Eichmann, remembering the horror of the holocaust drives the story and it drives those who pursued Eichmann. It is so easy to forget.

The other part of the story that inspires is the tireless work of the Mossad agents (Israeli equivalent of the CIA). They could not just waltz into Buenos Aires and ask for Eichmann, as the Argentinian government was sympathetic toward the Nazi's. The operation required a massive amount of planning and loads of money to pull of the grab.

The other two books we brought home were We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families and American Prometheus. The first was chosen because I am traveling to Rwanda in the fall to teach a class on the book of John to Anglican pastors. It is a collection of stories from those who faced the genocide in Rwanda. The second, American Prometheus came as a recommendation from a friend who also recommended The Making of the Atomic Bomb. I read the Atomic Bomb book a few years ago and was amazed by the incredible amount of effort it took our nation to develop the A-bomb. We essentially built the equivalent of the entire U.S. auto industry in three years to make two bombs. This effort required the use of the entire U.S. stockpile of silver (since copper was being used in bullets) for winding the gigantic magnets that split the atomic particles for the bombs. All this was done at the height of a World War that was already pulling resources from every corner of the country. Though other countries might have been able to discover the science of the bomb, no other would had the resources necessary to develop it during the war. The mastermind behind this effort was a man named Oppenheimer. This man was brilliant, hard charging, and able to keep an eclectic group of scientists focused on the task of the Bomb. American Prometheus tells more of his story.

Finally, one book that was left behind was The Third Reich at War (learned about here). However I'm happy to report that upon returning home, mother immediately ordered the book and already has it in her possession. I imagine that it will not take her long to read it since WWII history is her favorite genre.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time on Marriage


Time Magazine recently published this article on marriage. In it they make two important statements:

"There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage."

And…

"On every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children form intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households. Longevity, drug abuse, school performance and dropout rates, teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and incarceration – if you can measure it, a sociologist has; and in all cases, the kids living with both parents drastically outperform the others."

One feminist responds:

"As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues… "Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need the man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."

Read the full article here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dirty Fun


My son in a state of sheer delight

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Reject Pile

Went to Borders with my Mom today to select a couple of books for our semi-annual reading tradition. Here is the pile that we didn't bring home. It was hard to say no.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Whatever you do... don't make him angry

Some of you will recognize that line from the 80's version of the Incredible Hulk. I remember that glorious Friday night line up - the best in TV history: The Incredible Hulk followed by the Dukes of Hazard. Then when Dukes went off the air, it was Knight Rider. Pop a big bowl of popcorn and sit back for two hours of green muscle and chest hair.

I just listened to some of the best Father's day programs in a while - Family Life interviewed R.V. Brown, who was one of 17 kids. He grew up with a father who couldn't read or write, but he was the real deal and taught him what it meant to be a man. I had about 5 chill moments in the first 10 minutes - and then his tribute at the end of the second day was almost too much! Take time to listen to part 1 and part 2- you won't be disapointed.

Just don't make him angry - he's got bis bigger than my thighs.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Indicatives vs. Imperatives

Click here to watch a powerful video by Voddie Baucham (5 minutes long).
He recently shared with our staff the difference between the indicatives (who you are) vs. the imperatives (what you do) in your relationship with Christ.

Monday, May 25, 2009

WINNER!

Stephanie R. won the book!
I'm pretty sure I know who Stephanie R. is, but just in case, you may want to contact me.
Thanks for all the comments.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Win a Free Book



Leave a comment for a chance to win Bruce Ware's book Big Truth for Young Hearts. (See this previous post for more info). Comments will be taken through May 24th. Make sure I know how to contact you, or make sure to check the blog on Monday, May 25th to find out if you won.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dr. Gleason on Catechism Training

I spent about 45 minutes on the phone yesterday with Dr. Ron Gleason, interviewing him about the training of children in the church. Dr Gleason is pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda, California. He has quite a diverse bio, having served as a tank commander in the Army before spending 10 years in the Netherlands, studying Herman Bavinck, and serving as a pastor.

I first heard of Dr. Gleason while listening to a message he gave on Herman Bavinck (who I only recently learned of through another man's top 15 reading list of 2008 – he rated Bavinck's 4 volume theology as his #2 book of the year). While listening to the message, I was intrigued by a statement he made about catechism training in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. Gleason said "The children in the church were trained in the catechism over five years: 3 years in the Heidelberg Catechism, 1 year in the Belgic Confession, and 1 year on the Canons of Dort, and it was primarily the responsibility of
the fathers to catechize their children." Since catechism training is so rarely utilized in today's church, I asked if he would let me interview him on the practice. Below are his responses:

___________________________________________________________

Can you tell me a little about why your church does Catechism training?

If you look at the modern church, there is a tremendous emphasis on programs. But what kind of legacy has the mega-church left us? Are people better off today because of what they learned in church, or do they have a deficient understanding of the stories of the Bible and of theology? The Dutch church was always looking for ways to bring unity between church, school, and home. Studying Catechisms helped provide that and we've followed their approach at Grace Presbyterian. This is a tool we can put in the hands of fathers and equip them to embrace their greatest responsibility of training their children to follow Jesus.

What kind of process do you follow at your Church to teach the Catechism?

The Dutch Church started teaching their children at 12 years old. Then, when they were 18 they were ready to be accepted into the church and join in communion. Our church is pushing back the starting age to 9, because of the desire we've seen in many of the children to join in communion at an earlier age. The Jewish practice seemed to be to accept a child into the community at 13, so I guess we're modeling that a bit.

How do you incorporate the parents in the Catechism training?

When we kicked off this program, I began by teaching the parents the catechism during Sunday School. I would use this time to walk them through the question for the week and give them tips for teaching the material to their kids. The parents are then expected to teach the Catechism daily and help their kids memorize all the questions. We still follow this model and find that it is very effective in allowing us to connect church and home. Initially, we also had the Elders meet with each family in their home to explain what we were doing and why. It was a big paradigm breaker for a lot of families and took some time to embrace, much like if you were to come to someone's home and say "we think you should consider home-schooling." The emotional reaction is very similar.

What material do you use to teach the Catechism?

I wrote three workbooks that we use as a basis for instruction. The material is based on a combination of the Heidelberg and Westminster shorter catechisms. I combined the two to get more emphasis on the Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. These workbooks are only available through our church right now.

What did catechism training look like in your home?

We would generally work on the catechism right before bed. That is when the kids were most attentive and willing to dig a little deeper, primarily because they wanted to put off going to bed. When they were younger, we might only spend 5 minutes on the questions, but as they aged, we noticed that they were much more eager to ask clarifying questions and to dig deeper into the meaning of the questions. I was honestly not that concerned about whether or not they understood the questions or even the words they were using. I just wanted them to memorize it, to get the information in their head, and I believed God would bear fruit from that effort later.

And how did your kids respond to the Catechisms?

Just this week my two oldest sons (39 and 37) were telling me how much they benefited from learning the catechisms. They are excited to teach their children as well. All five living children are following the Lord and growing in their love for him.

How else are the scriptures taught in your home?

Every night, at the end of dinner, we read through a passage of scripture, discuss it, then pray. We take maybe 3 minutes to read the scripture and then I just want to see if they can grasp the main points. Usually my wife chooses the book of the Bible we read. Right now we're reading through Galatians.

What else does your church offer for the youth?

We don't have a Jr. high or Sr. high program – instead we have mentoring groups. The boys are mentored by their fathers. If they do not have a father, then their grandfather, an elder in the church, or another man will agree to mentor te child. These groups meet in the homes of the elders, every other week, and primarily deal with life issues. Right now we're studying a 2 volume series by Douglas Bond (Stand Fast and Hold Fast).

But we also equip the youth by training fathers to lead devotions in the home. On Wednesday nights the men gather for a Bible study, right now we're teaching through Proverbs. I don't teach that study, I facilitate it. The men rotate on who teaches the study, and each man is required to bring copies of his teaching notes to share with the other men so that they will know how to teach the content to their family. You see the only way to really learn how to teach your family is to practice teaching. This study gives men a safe place to practice and get positive encouragement from other men.


I was very grateful to have this interview and for men like Dr. Gleason that are pushing the average church member to go deeper in their understanding of theology and the Scriptures. Maybe you have not been very satisfied with your church's approach to children's ministry. Try reading through some of the catechism links on this post and see what you think of the material. Are these the kinds of things you would like to know about God and have your kids learn as well? Have you longed for your church to be intentional to link the teaching at church with what is being taught in the home? Then maybe you should consider using the catechism approach to training your children.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Don’t Be a Loser

FamilyLife recently interviewed Mark Hamby, founder and president of Lamplighter publishing. In it he tells the story of how he went from hating books, even graduating High School and college without having ever read a book, to falling in love with good books. It happened when he was confronted by a teacher at a Christian college who said "I think you lack the character to do what it takes to be able to get a passing grade in this course." Ouch. She said that because he had slacked off the entire semester, and was now asking for extra work to bring up his grade. She didn't budge: "The only way you are passing my course is if you get a 100 on the final." He took the final, though he almost quit the school because of her challenge (you'll have to listen to the program to find out what happened).

The next day he attended a seminar and met Charlie T. Jones, who picked him out of the crowd, and stood him on stage to ask him about his reading habits. Mark tells the story as follows:

He grabs me by the elbow, lifts me up like a vice grip and brings me up onstage in front of 3,000 people and says, "Young man, what great Christian literature are you reading in your life these days?" I was petrified... I've never been in front of that many people before, and he says, "I want to know who your mentors are – what biographies are you reading? I want to know what the best book was that you read last year. What was the best book you read last week, and what book were you reading last night?" He spun me around, and he started hitting me on the back, and he says, "Tell these people right now – who's your mentors – D.L. Moody, is it George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael," and he's really just kind of shaking me, and I'm going from bright red to pale yellow… I'm trying to [think of a book], and [only remembering] the books my mother read to me when I was a kid, and he looked at me, and said, "I don't know how I pick you losers out every time." And I looked at him, and he says, "Go to your seat, I'll see you later."

Afterwards, Mr. Jones got Mark's address and sent him a box full of Christian biographies. Those books changed Mark's life and led to him start Lamplighter publishing. The company is dedicated to reintroducing great works of literature to new generations. For instance, one of the books they publish is called A Peep Behind the Scenes, which Mark says "outsold the Scarlet Letter by 2 million copies in 1850."

Listen to the radio programs and start reading some of these great classics!

Part 1: You're Only as Good as the Books You Read

Part 2: Welcome to the Wonderful World of Reading.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Family Room


FamilyLife offers a great e-zine on marriage called The Family Room.

I especially appreciated one article this month on a woman's struggle to salvage her marriage after an affair. She writes,

"Brad and I had only been married for 15 months when he told me that he was no longer happy and wanted out of our marriage. I was devastated … but not totally surprised. I suspected that he had been seeing another woman.

Although Brad and I continued living under one roof, our hearts were not united. Our daughter had just turned one, and I wondered if our life as a family was over."

You can read the rest here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Frightening Affair

On a recent FamilyLife Today radio broadcast, Pastor Dave Carder states that "40% of Christian marriages will experience an affair before the couple reaches the age of 40." This statistic made me gasp when I heard it. 40%?!?! That seems impossible. Yet the statistics also say that 50% of all couples (Christian or non-Christian) experience affairs before 40. Thus a reminder that many "Christian" marriages are not very different from the average married couple. Based on the statistics, the chances are good (or bad) that you know someone who has experienced an affair or will experience one. The radio programs are outstanding, and I highly recommend that every couple take time to listen to them. You might even consider ordering a few copies of the CD to pass along to other couples.

Part 1: Why do Affairs Happen?

Part 2: What Causes Affairs?

Part 3: Where do Affairs Start?

Part 4: How do I Come Clean?

Part 5: How do I Rebuild Trust?

Online evaluation: Are you at risk for an Affair?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Teaching Kids (and yourself) Theology



FamilyLife recently aired a series of interviews with Bruce Ware, who wrote a book called Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. This book is a summary of the many conversations he had with his two daughters during their adolescent years. Bruce describes what he did as "co-opting" family time to do what he loved best – teaching the great and glorious truths of the Christian faith. He did this over "family discussion during dinner, late-night chats in his study, and 'daddy-daughter dates.'"

Bruce is a professor of theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Though he is a skilled theologian, his kids comment in the book on how adept he was at making theology relevant to young children. But of particular note is what his girls wrote in the forward of the book: "We followed our father's teaching in part because he practiced what he preached." I often wonder what the children of many parenting 'experts' would say about their parents. Here we get the author giving his daughters space to tell-all, and they give nothing but glowing praise and admiration for their father.

One of the goals of this blog is to equip you with tools for the spiritual training of your children, but all the tools in the world are worthless unless you 'practice what you preach.' Every guy reading this should be encouraged – because if a Theology Professor, one normally known for being 'dry' or 'boring' or 'irrelevant', can teach children about Jesus and still make it interesting, then the rest of us have a great chance to win at home.

You can listen to the three programs via the following links:

Introducing Your Child to God

Sandbox Theology

Helping Your Child Understand the Holy Spirit

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reformation History


For a GREAT summary of the Reformation, check out this sermon by Tommy Nelson (right click on link and select "save as").




Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fear and Idolatry


One afternoon my wife was listening to the radio. A show about the failing economy came on and the speaker announced "I want you to think of the thing which you are most afraid." He paused. "Now – what came to mind? Was it being poor, losing a loved one, maybe cancer?" Another long pause… "If the thing you fear most was anything other than being distant in your relationship with Jesus Christ, then your priorities are out of order."

Tim Keller recently gave a talk at the Gospel Coalition Conference that focused on the issue of Idolatry (download video or audio here). He said that Salvation is putting your hope in Jesus, but Idolatry is putting your hope in anything other than Jesus. He also said that fear is Idolatry, because the thing you fear has become too high of a priority for you. So high that you become fearful when you imagine life without it. Security, respect, and truth can become gods if they are the ultimate source of your purpose and fulfillment.

Keller also commented on Martin Luther's view on the 10 Commandments. Luther saw all of the commandments as flowing out of the first one: The Lord your God is one; you should have no other God's before him. Thus if you break any of the other 9, you are breaking them because you failed to understand the first command. Why do you steal? Because the possession has become an Idol – a god above the one true God. Why do you lie? Because you value people's perception of you more than God's perception of you. These things are Idolatry.

Voddie Baucham recently gave a message at FamilyLife addressing this very issue (video of Part 1 and Part 2). He said "if you struggle with anger – getting angry at your wife. You don't have an anger problem, you have a worship problem." You get angry because you put have something else as a higher priority than worshipping and pleasing Christ. At that point, you have fallen into Idolatry.