Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Prospect of Death

[From: Malcolm Muggeridge, Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim]

None the less, the mystery remains; and ever must. Some eight decades ago I came into the world, full of cries and wind and hiccups; now I prepare to leave it, also full of cries and wind and hiccups. Whence I came I cannot know, least of all in the light of contemporary myths like Darwinian evolution, Freudian psychology, situational ethics, Marxist prophecy, and so on—surely the most absurd ever. Whither I go I can only surmise helped thereto by the testimony of true visionaries like the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Blake, Dostoevsky, and, of course, above all Jesus Christ. By inspired works of art like Chartres Cathedral and the Missa Solemnis, by the dedicated lives of saints and mystics; above all, by the Incarnation and all its consequences, in history, in what we still call Western Civilization, now toppling into its final collapse, in providing infallible signposts in the quest for God.

The hardest thing of all to explain is that death's nearness in some mysterious way makes what is being left behind—I mean our earth itself, its shapes and smells and colours and creatures, all that one has known and loved and lived with—the more entrancing; as the end of a bright June day somehow encapsulates all the beauty of the daylight hours now drawing to a close; or as the last notes of a Beethoven symphony manage to convey the splendour of the whole piece. Checking out of St Theresa of Avila's second-class hotel,* as the revolving doors take one into the street outside, one casts a backward look at the old place, overcome with affection for it, almost to the point of tears.

So, like a prisoner awaiting his release, like a schoolboy when the end of term is near, like a migrant bird ready to fly south, like a patient in hospital anxiously scanning tie doctor's face to see whether a discharge may be expected, I long to be gone. Extricating myself from the flesh I have too long inhabited, hearing the key turn in the lock of Time so that the great doors of Eternity swing open, disengaging my tired mind from its interminable conundrums and my tired ego from its wearisome insistencies. Such is the prospect of death.

I am eighty-four years old, an octogenarian who has done much that he ought not to have done and left undone much that he ought to have done, and lived fourteen years longer than the three score years and ten which, the Bible tells, will be but labour and sorrow, they pass away so soon.

For me, intimations of immortality, deafness, failing eyesight, loss of memory, the afflictions of old age, release me from preoccupation with worldly fantasy and free me to meditate on spiritual reality....And so I live, just for each day, knowing my life will soon be over, and that I, like Michelangelo at the end of his life "…have loved my friends and family. I have loved God and all His creation. I have loved life and now I love death as its natural termination…", knowing that although Christendom may be over—Christ lives!

* Describing our life in this world, St. Theresa said it is no more than a night in a second-lass hotel.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Sanctus 2010 - Video

Take One for the Team

The best sports teams are not comprised of individual stars, but rather team-players. Likewise, the best army is the army that functions as one; where everyone covers their buddy's back. So too, the church must function with unity if it's to be effective in its calling to represent Christ in the world. The Apostle Paul tells the church that we are to "grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15-16). If we're to truly be part of the Body of Christ we must be fully engagedliving, loving serving, sacrificinglosing ourselves for the sake of others. Body life is vital and warm; it has a pulse. God doesn't permit bench-warmers, spectators and critics; He has called us all to enter the game without reservation. This kind of living sacrifice is our reasonable serviceit is the sacrifice of loveand this is the love that edifies the Body.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Sanctus 2010

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!" ―Psalm 27:13-14

The life of a church has many dimensions; some dark and difficult, but also many that are full of light and joy. Our third annual Summer Sanctus Christian Student Camp was bigger and better than the first two (which were also great!). What a delight to see so many young people from ten churches and six states gather in the context of worship and celebration. This year's lessons covered the topics of what it means to be masculine and feminine, how to develop friendships, the pursuit of maturity and the development of Christian virtue. The enthusiastic singing and participation in morning and evening prayers gives me great hope for the future. New friendships were made and old friendships were nurtured. The dance last night was simply the picture of happiness.

I want to thank all who participated for the Christian character that was so evident in them. Special thanks go to our adult counselors (Bob and Rebecca Corneroli, Cyndi Willborg, Esther Davis, Hannah and Emily Izard, Christi St. John, Emily Lawlace, Emily Alders, Elizabeth Walton, Megan Martin, Sarah Douglas, Gene and Zach Franklin, Gregg Sapp, Richard Sartor, John Turner, and Drew Alders), and to our speakers (pastors Duane Garner and Jeff Niell). Much gratitude is due for the special services of Thomas Smith (who handled our audio and planned and directed our dance and dance practices); to Sarah Garner (our camp photographer and piano player); to David Bryant and Katrina Terrell (for planning and leading our games and activities), and to Jerrod Richey (for T-shirts, water bottles and other planning). Enormous appreciation, gratitude and thanks are especially due to Pastor Tom Brainerd for his many labors leading up to camp and his outstanding administration of all the many details that made the camp successful.

Swearing to Our Own Hurt

Psalm 15 address the question of the character of the person may dwell with the Lord. Among other things the psalm says in verse 5: "He who swears to his own hurt and does not change," and concludes in verse 6, saying: "He who does these things shall never be moved." Since the Fall, people have been prone to say one thing and do another; to enter into covenant and to then become covenant-breakers; to vow and not pay (Eccl. 5:5). It's easy to make a promise when we perceive a benefit but it seem easy to forget that promise when it becomes costly. In addition to "forgetting," people often claim they did not really understand what they were promising and so they presume themselves under no obligation to keep their word. They "weasel out" and never look back.

We can count on God's words because He is always faithful; He is always a covenant-keeper. "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen" (2 Cor. 1:20). God takes His own words seriously and He also takes our words seriously (even if we don't). It's a mistake to think God will bless a covenant-breaker. We can't say one thing and do another and still expect to dwell with the Lord. Swearing to our own hurt is a demonstration of godly character since it is a reflection of God Himselfwe are called to represent and reflect His character. Remembering what we have promised and being scrupulous to keep our vows, especially when it is difficult, is evidence of God's grace and demonstrative of the person who "shall never be moved."

This kind of character will be seen, not only in the big public promises (like marriage, church membership, business contracts, and court testimony), but also in the little things (in the unseen things and in the details); including our casual promises and commitments to our children, spouses, friends and neighbors. He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. When someone has told you they would do something for you, you probably remembered it and you expected it. If they didn't follow through―if they broke their word―you also probably haven't forgotten it.

What covenants, vows, contracts, promises and implied promises have you made? Do you remember the details? Do you need to review the documents or asked those to whom you made these commitments? Are you prepared to keep your word even if it hurts? If so, then you will be blessed by God and dwell with Him and never be moved. What is that worth?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Indifference

All these aspects of giving (the motive, quality, quantity and attitude), are not a matter of indifference.

8 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:8-10

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." 9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. Acts 5:1-11

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38

The old hymn captured it all:

Give of your best to the Master, give of the strength of your youth;
Throw your soul's fresh, glowing ardor into the battle for truth.
Jesus has set the example—dauntless was He, young and brave;
Give Him your loyal devotion; give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master, give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service, consecrate every part.
Give, and to you shall be given—God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him, give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master, naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom, gave up His glory above;
Laid down His life without murmur, you from sin's ruin to save;
Give Him your heart's adoration, give Him the best that you have.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Excuses for Not Giving

16 Then He said to him, 'A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, "Come, for all things are now ready." 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused." 19 And another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused." 20 Still another said, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, "Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind." 22 And the servant said, "Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room." 23 Then the master said to the servant, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper."…. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple'" Luke 14:16-24, 33

Too proud (that's beneath me). Too busy (I'm important). Too lazy (someone else will do it). Too spoiled (You grew up having someone do it for you). Too ungrateful (refusing to give thanks).

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Attitude of Our Giving

God is concerned not only with what or how much is given, but also how it is given.

16     For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
     You do not delight in burnt offering.
17     The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
     A broken and a contrite heart—
     These, O God, You will not despise.
18     Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
     Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19     Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
     With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
     Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
Psalm 51:16-19

1 Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. 6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever." 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"  2 Corinthians 9:1-15

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Quantity of Our Giving

All that we have we owe to Him. We are bondservants of Jesus Christ: "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Whatever quantity we give, it is still but a token of what He has given us.

I have picked up a phrase from my friend, Pastor Niell: "God's tithe and our offerings." This is a good distinction. God requires ten percent of our income taken from the firstfruits. If you are unsure what "firstfruits" are, you should ask your pastor. You don't need an accountant to figure the tithe, you just need a simple calculator. To not tithe is disobedience, and disobedience is a lack of faith; it is also sin. Sin is a moral issue, not a financial issue. "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine" (Proverbs 3:9-10).

Tithing sets both a lower and an upper limit on our giving. Ten percent is a minimum—Old or New Covenant. While you may give more, you are not required to give more. Our freewill offerings are gifts that go above and beyond the tithe.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Quality of Our Giving

The quality of our giving seems to be of special concern to God. Gifts since are tokens of love, gratitude and thankfulness; they express the value we place on the things they are tokens of. A cheap gift often, but not always, means that we do not value the object of the gift very much. For example, ladies, how would you like to receive McDonalds coupons each year for your anniversary? What would that say about your husband's love for you? On the other hand, if great labor, thought or money went into an anniversary gift, then what message would you receive? And thus we read: "And when they [the wise men] had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matt. 2:11). God requires the firstfruits—not the dregs, not the leftovers, not our spare change or our spare time. "The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God" (Exodus 23:19).

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest." Lev. 23: 9-10

So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9 He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me. Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God. 11 So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you. Deut. 26: 8-11

Moreover he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to contribute support for the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. 5 As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. 6 And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep; also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated to the Lord their God they laid in heaps. 2 Chron. 31: 4-6

And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 36 to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; 37 to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. 38 And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse. 39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God. Neh. 10:35-39

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. Ex. 12:5

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1 Peter 1:17-19
You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the Lord is contemptible.' 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-8

"We're not using this anymore; let's take it to the church." No, it should be our best clothes, our best labor, our best possessions, our best time, our best singing, our best everything. Our best may not be very good compared to others, yet this still pleases God.

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, 5 "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 "For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always. John 12:1-7

We ought to always be striving to glorify God with the quality of our giving, flawed though it may be.

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood. Mark 12:41-44

We must not despise little things, provided those little things are the best that we can do. No doubt, God delighted in the worship of His people in the Catacombs. We would love a cathedral, but God has enabled us to have a country church building, and we should be grateful. But we should also pray that someday we could build a better place for His worship.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Motive of Our Giving

First, everything we have, we received from God. The old saying is true, "We cannot out give God." We love because He first loved us. We give, because He first gave to us. God is the giver of all good gifts. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). He spared not His own Son: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Our reasonable response: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
Second, giving is an expression of love, gratitude and thankfulness. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). In Romans one, it is those who failed to give thanks to God—who failed to show Him gratitude—that were given over to their own lusts and destruction. "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Heb. 12:28).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Give of Your Best to the Master

3 "Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways! 6 You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.' 7 Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! 8 Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord. 9 'You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' says the Lord of hosts. 'Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit. 11 For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.'" Haggai 1:3-11

I believe texts like these can properly be applied to the church, since the people of God are, in fact, His temple. In many ways the broader church is in disrepair and has become ineffective or irrelevant in the world. The salt of the earth is no longer salty. The problem then and now is that personal comfort and affluence often comes before the work of God's kingdom—it comes before the church. Our own pleasure and glory comes before God's pleasure and glory. The temple of the Lord is not a priority. The result: God brings judgment on His people. There is a connection between obedience and prosperity. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Joshua 1:8). God withholds genuine prosperity from us until we repent and faithfully served Him. The way to blessing is faithfulness to God. This is consistent with the Gospel message. Jesus required the total commitment of our lives to Him.

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Luke 14:33-35

Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" Luke 9:23-25

The demands of Christ are total, not minimal. The words of Jesus were and are hard for many to hear. In fact, we are told that many turned and followed Him no more. I fear that in the church today there are some who have falsely comforted themselves with such minimal performance. "What's the least I can do and still be a Christian?" But Jesus warns: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). Lives of gratitude and giving, both to God and His people, are what give God pleasure and glory—loving God and loving our neighbor. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

Giving, or sacrificing, is central to the Christian life. Jesus was the perfect, mature man, and we are to be imitators of Him—we are to be Christ-like. Self-denial is a key element of this Christian maturity. One of the central elements of Christ's work among us was that He was a servant—a giver of Himself. Sacrifice and love go hand-in-hand.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heavenly Comfort

An old friend of mine lost her brother Pete yesterday, and I just received word that a faithful servant of God, Mr. Hewitt Carter, went to be with the Lord tonight.

For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. Lamentations 3:31

In Psalm 88, the psalmist is in deep sadness and grief. He had suffered many losses in his life but none were so great as the loss of his loved ones, friends and acquaintances. Loneliness had overcome him. God designed us not to live alone, but to be connected to others—"It is not good for man to be alone." Some of our very best emotions are produced as a result of our personal relationships with family and friends. In fact, much of our happiness is dependent on these social ties. It is difficult to imagine anything that gives more pleasure in life than our personal relationships. Yet, like every pleasure in a fallen world, it has its corresponding pain. We cannot feel loss without having first felt gain. Our losses arise from our possessions, and our affections produce our distress and tears. In death, our loved ones are taken from us and our immediate connection with them is severed. Grief and tears are the sad tribute we pay for loving and being loved.

God ruled the world before we were born; He will rule it after we are gone, and so, let us trust Him to rule it now, while we are in this situation. Indeed, death is dark, but Jesus announced the good news: "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12). He conquered death at the resurrection, and that is where our hope comes from. At the center of our faith is the hope that death will be fruitful. Jesus said, "Unless the seed falls into the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit." For Christians, death in all its forms is never merely an end, but a beginning; it is never sterile, but fruitful in Christ.

Allow me to share with you a Christian perspective; a poetic image of the death of a Christian I read some years ago:

We are standing on the seashore. A ship at our side spreads her sails to the morning breeze, and starts out for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. We stand and watch her far away—she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to meet each other. Then someone says, "There, she's gone." Gone where? Gone from our sight, that's all. She's just as large in mast and hull as she was when she left our side—just as able to bear her load to her place of destination. Her diminished size is in us, not in her—and just at the moment when we say, "There, she's gone," on that distant shore there are other eyes watching for her coming and other voices ready to shout, "Here she comes!"

The old Heidelberg Catechism asks: "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" It answers: "That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him."

Though we grieve deeply over our separation from our loved ones, and properly so, we are also comforted by the Word of God: "But we do not want you to be uninformed brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:13-14). We are not far behind those whom we have loved and lost, and whom we still love, and in Christ will never lose again.

Cultural Retreat

Our nation has fallen prey to the Athenian spirit, always seeking "something new." As a result people drift from social fad to social fad in hopes of stumbling upon that which will satisfy their cravings—always hungry but never filled. We live in a culture that has abandoned the certainty of God's revealed truth for the empty promises of self-proclaimed leaders. "Professing to be wise they became fools and exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (Rom. 1:22). Ethical matters in our society, having no plumb line as a standard, are left to be determined by the latest public opinion poll. Truth is constantly put to the popular vote and whim of the ever-shifting majority. Elected officials and judges at all levels trim their ethical sails to catch the prevailing winds. No standard that rises above all men is allowed; how old fashion and naive. We live in more enlightened times. Those old standards put too many restraints on us. Surely we can have our cake and eat it too.

The sexual revolution provides vivid illustration of this cultural dilemma. The Bible was unrealistic when it demanded chastity and monogamous marital relationships; how repressive. Christianity simply does not take into account human sexuality and its need to express itself. There is nothing wrong with free sex and multiple partners of the opposite or same sex. Freedom from this bondage was demanded. Well, like a train freed from the bondage of its tracks, this new popular sexual ethic soon bogged down under its own weight. Freed from God's repressive law, new social problems soon surfaced. As one may not violate the law of gravity with immunity, neither may God's moral laws be violated without severe results. (There have always been individuals who violate such laws, but we are speaking now of an entire social shift of ethical standards). This new freedom brought with it a harsh taskmaster that demanded his price for such liberty; broken marriages, unwanted pregnancies, abused children, diseases, and an increased burden on the social welfare system are but a few of the personal and social costs for this enlightened ethic.

Having failed so dismally, we might expect a social shift back to those less costly standards found in the Scriptures. However, being wiser than God, men sought ways to violate God's laws without having to pay the high price for their actions. Education in "safe sex," public distribution of condoms (even to children), abortion on demand, and increased welfare benefits would enable us to sin against God without facing the consequences of that sin. "We will show God that we can circumvent His law. Nobody can tell us what to do. We will not have this man to rein over us."

We might have hoped that the Christian community would have been the clarion voice in this deficient culture, standing firm to proclaim and live by God's holy standards as they are revealed in His Word. After all, we are a holy or separate people, set apart to follow Him and to submit to His Lordship. The unbelieving world may question the Scriptural ethical standard but certainly not those who profess Him as their Savior. We would be the salt and light of the culture that would illumine and preserve. Though all others forsake Him, surely we would remain faithful in declaring the righteous standard of God's law in which we delight. This would-be army of believers has fainted and withered, scattering in order to avoid the cultural confrontation. Liberal church members have defected to join the ranks of the pagan culture as they too have abandoned God's Word and called its authority into question. Scripture has become a bankrupt document for them. Fundamentalists and pietists have often retreated into their churches to hide. Some are packing their bags in anticipation of being raptured out of the mess, and many have traded in their once firm stand on the Word of God for and arbitrary pluralism that seeks to make peace with the enemy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Growing Old Gracefully

Having just returned from a choir reunion where I saw friends I haven't seen in nearly 35 years, growing old is on my mind. Everyone looked great but none of us have escaped unscathed. Being in my 50s, I am supposedly at what is called "middle-age." Making it to 110, however, seems to be a stretch. Young people don't think about "growing old," which is understandable since they have yet to experience the reality of declining physical strength and mental capabilities. For them getting older has always meant getting better as they draw closer to the peak of their physical maturity. I go to bed feeling relatively good and wake up feeling like something really bad happened to me while I was asleep. The truth is (in another sense), the older we get, we do either grow better or worse. I have seen it time-after-time: whatever has been packed in while we were young will ooze back out when we're old. The later years can be the graceful years or the grumpy years. We either get better or we get bitter. Perhaps you've thought, "I'll never be like that when I get old!" But growing old gracefully doesn't happen by accident.

God has given us some biblical examples. Consider Moses, at the age of 120 (note the vigor of the speeches in Deuteronomy): "Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished" (Deut. 34:7). Remember Joshua, as he addressed the elders of Israel (note his conviction): "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh 24:15). Then we have Dorcas, who helped the poor and widows: "At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did" (Acts 9:36). We also have the graceful manner in which the Apostle Paul faced death: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Peter also aged gracefully, remaining diligent as death approached: "Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease" (2 Peter 1:13-15).

The Bible is not the only place where we find examples of people growing old gracefully. I'm sure we've all known such attractive people. I've certainly been blessed to know a number of them in my life, along with the cranky ones. Mature grace is beautiful to behold. Victor Hugo observed: "When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age." Growing old gracefully, like many good things, doesn't happen by accident; it takes concentrated effort, so be diligent and persevere! Such a person will be like those described in Psalm 92:12-15:

12     The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
     He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13     Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
     Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14     They shall still bear fruit in old age;
     They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15     To declare that the Lord is upright;
     He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chapel Choir Rehearsal

My Eternal King song from Walker Financial on Vimeo.

John Walker wrote: A remarkable illustration of the Godly impact this song and our Music Minister made on our lives when you consider that most of the singers have not sung this song since their youth choir days over THIRTY years ago. This was a sound check with our dear director, James E. Castle on July 17, 2010 at the Broadmoor Baptist Church Chapel Choir Reunion in Shreveport, LA. (Lots of emotion going on during this song, a moment we will never forget! Mr. Holland's Opus was just a movie..., this was real!) [Recorded on iphone 4]

Lyrics: “My Eternal King,” from 17th Century Latin,Translated by Rev. Edward Caswall

My God, I love Thee;
not because I hope for heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

Why, then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heav’n,
Or of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

Reunion Choir

Marinell and I enjoyed a remarkable weekend with friends and family. The occasion was a reunion of the youth choir at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, LA; the church I grew up in and where my parents are still members and my father is a deacon. The youth choir was called the "Chapel Choir" and included about a hundred high school students. The reunion group spanned a period of about 20 years. Sincere thanks go to all who helped organize the reunion.

Like most reunions, we approached this one with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. This group included some of the people we were closest to in our teenage years as well as many whom we had never met because they came either before or after us. It had been thirty or thirty five years since we had seen most of these old friends. The weekend included a number of social events along with several hours of choir practice in preparation for singing at two worship services on Sunday morning. It was fun to visit and see the different directions everyone had gone and how adulthood had actually caught up with all of us. We realized that, in addition to me and Marinell, several other married couples had been brought together during those years. We even had the opportunity to stand in the church chapel where we were married thirty six years-a-ago (as of August 9th), and have our picture made again.

We were also blessed to have our choir director, Jim Castle, return to lead us again. As kids, Mr. Castle was a commanding figure who had the ability to control a room full of teenagers and actually produce incredible music. At least where the boys were concerned, it would be something like trying to teach a herd of hogs to sing. Mr. Castle was more like a football coach that demanded promptness and discipline, and who also consistently produced a winning team. He taught us how to do more than we ever thought we could. As we grow older many of us have come to see more and more what our parents did for us, even though we couldn't see it at the time. What aggravated us at the time (because we thought they were being too hard or unreasonable), we now see was for our good and was necessary for our progress. Mr. Castle was not unlike our parents in this regard. Thank you Mr. Castle; God used you in our lives and is still using those lessons to form us into His image.

Like so many other things in our lives that we cannot see or appreciate at the time, the Chapel Choir of Broadmoor Baptist Church was clearly an instrument of God in our lives. Relationships and memories were made that prepared us for so many other opportunities that would come our way. To reunite with so many who not only still love the Lord, but who also are still serving Him in a variety of ways, gave fresh perspective to what God has done in the past and how He did it. It also brought perspective to what we are doing now and why it's important. We often can't see at the moment how our labor and ministry in our churches and families are impacting the lives of our children and others. Faith and obedience form character little-by-little over a long period of time. Thankfully, God frequently gives us a glimpse of what He is doing, yet much remains unseen.

Thank you Broadmoor Baptist Church for a faithful ministry that has spanned generations. Thanks to the pastors and teachers and choir directors and parents and friends. Thanks for all who gave and served and labored and prayed. Thanks for all that we saw you do and for all the unseen sacrifices. What you put in the river upstream continues to flow downstream. May the Lord bless you!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Biblical Terminology

Education (part 74)

The Bible clearly distinguishes these three types of learning while also revealing their interdependency. Each aspect of learning comes as a gift from God. Moses commended Bezalel saying, "And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship" (Ex. 35:34). Proverbs declares, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (2:6) and "Wise men store up knowledge..." (10:14). Daniel describes God as the One who "gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding" (2:21). 

In Scripture, knowledge (grammar) seems to be focused on particular words, information or instructions that must be received or rejected by the hearer. A wise teacher instructs a willing learner who receives particular information from his instructor. Balaam spoke of, "The oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High" (Num. 24:16). The Proverbs also make this connection evident: "Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge" (14:7); "the lips of the wise spread knowledge" (15:7): "the ear of the wise seeks knowledge" (18:15); "Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge" (19:27); "when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge" (21:11); "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge" (22:12); in Ecclesiastes, "the Preacher taught the people knowledge" (12:9) and in Malachi, "for the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth" (2:7).

Understanding (dialectic) in Scripture is directed toward discerning good from evil, truth from falsehood. In other words, the one who has understanding has good judgment. He comprehends the right relationship of the particular pieces of knowledge to the whole. This is the syntax or logic of learning. King Solomon prayed, "So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil" (1 Kings 3:9). Job observes, "And to depart from evil is understanding" (28:28). Genuine understanding is evidenced in obedience to the truth as we see in these passages from Psalms: "A good understanding have all those who do
His Commandments" (111: 10); "Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart" (119:34); "Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments" (119:73); "From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way" (119:104). The Proverbs observe: "a man of understanding walks straight" (15:21) and "The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him" (28:11). God complains to Jeremiah, "For My people are foolish. They know Me not; they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know" (4:22). Daniel and his companions were described as those who were "endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge" Pan. 1:4). The apostle John points us to the ultimate purpose of understanding when he writes, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true..." (1 John 5:20).

Wisdom (rhetoric) is the ability to arrange, articulate and apply knowledge and understanding in a variety of circumstances. "In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs" (Eccl. 12:9). "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable..." (Prov. 15:2). "The lips of the wise spread knowledge..." (Prov. 15:7). Israel recognized Solomon's wisdom, "for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice" (1 Kings 3:28). The Psalms declare: "The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom" (37:30); "My mouth will speak wisdom" (49:3). Again, the Proverbs support this aspect of learning: "The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom" (10:3 1); "She opens her mouth in wisdom" (31:26). Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge and understanding as revealed in Ecclesiastes: "For wisdom is protection just as money is protection. But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors" (7:12); "Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city" (7:19); "Wisdom is better than strength" (; 16); "Wisdom is better than the weapons of war" (9:18); "Wisdom has the advantage of giving success" (10:10). You are to have the "word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another..." (Col. 3:16); the Scriptures are "able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15); and we are told, "conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity" (Col. 4:5).

The use of classical terminology (e.g., the "trivium," "grammar," "dialectic" and "rhetoric") is useful, provided we comprehend that the substance of this model is rooted in Scripture. It is only in the context of the fear of God that genuine knowledge, understanding and wisdom can be attained. All other efforts, in the end, prove to be folly. Tota et sola Scriptura. Our final allegiance is to all of Scripture, and only Scripture.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What is the "Trivium"

Education (part 73)

I believe the trivium model of learning (as far as it goes), passes the biblical test. While the Romans did not start or end with the fear of God (though some in the medieval period perhaps did), nevertheless, they did get part of it right. The "trivium" has reference to educational method-how to educate. The model is comprised of three phases of learning: 1) grammar, 2) dialectic, and 3) rhetoric. These are but new labels for the biblical concepts of: 1) knowledge, 2) understanding, and 3) wisdom. All learning will involve these three steps: gathering particular information (grammar or knowledge phase), assembling that information into its proper relationships (dialectic or understanding phase), and then applying that understanding of the particulars to various situations in an effective way (rhetoric or wisdom phase). This is simply the way God made us and the world in which we live. The Jigsaw puzzle illustrates the process-particular pieces must be arranged in the right relationship to one another before we can see the big picture.

These three areas of learning interact, each one with the other. Without knowledge there can be no understanding or wisdom. Knowledge and understanding are likewise necessary if there is to be wisdom. The wise man is able to acquire even more knowledge and understanding, thus becoming more wisehe has learned how to learn.

Child development is the maturing process—proceeding from the simple to the complex-knowledge, understanding and then wisdom. There are plenty of smart six-year-olds but not very many wise ones. Thus the trivium begins with young children focusing on learning the grammar of every subject—multiplication tables, parts of speech, spelling, books of the Bible, events in history, etc. At about age 12 or so, children ask more and more the "why" questions. This is where the trivium focuses on dialectic or logic. The student begins to understand the place and importance of each subject of study. The final focus of the trivium is on rhetoric. The older students now learn how to articulate and apply the various fields of study to life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Trivium in Biblical Perspective

Education (part 72)

The fear of the Lord is the starting place (Prov. 1:7) and the ending place (Eccl. 12:12-13) of all legitimate learning. It is God's creature functioning in context. Absent the recognition of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life, the learning of particular facts is vain and the assembling of those facts into a cohesive whole is impossible. It is somewhat like lifting sentences at random from a novel and trying to organize them into something that makes sense without acknowledging there ever was a novel or novel writer.

The unbeliever learns, but to what end? Perhaps he becomes proficient, or even excellent at performing particular tasks—he gets a good job—he makes a lot of money. Nevertheless, what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" It does not matter how smooth and fast the train is if in the end the bridge is out. It was the rich man that found himself on the other side of the great chasm from Abraham, crying for a drop of water.

While the unbeliever swerves into the truth on a regular basis, without the fear of the Lord he has no means of discerning good from evil (Heb. 5:14). He is a creature, made in God's image, living in God's world. However, since he does not acknowledge any of this, the truths he does pick up fall short of accomplishing their intended purpose which is to glorify God.

The development of the trivium model of classical learning is, perhaps, an example of how unbelievers borrow truth from God's world and yet fail to give God the credit. As believers we should adopt or reject the trivium model of learning not for pragmatic reasons but because it is either true or false. Our primary concern should be: is it biblical? The Scriptures are our only rule of faith and life, not the Romans or modem pedagogues. All truth claims must pass the biblical standard.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Application to All Disciplines

Education (part 71)

The faculty of the Christian school is frequently fractured and un-unified. We have often been trained by Modernity's worldview and did not have a thoroughly unified Christian education ourselves. Our hope is, that while we often are not in a position to sit in on other classes ourselves, our students are receiving a more well-rounded and unified education with a comprehensive conception of the world.

In order for the school to be distinctively Christian in its worldview, these three things must be present: 1) our philosophy of education (i.e., what we believe about God and the universe—man's environment) must be biblical; 2) Our curriculum (i.e., content—interpretation of the facts) must be biblical; 3) Our view of the child (i.e., made in the image of God, fallen in Adam, redeemed in Christ) must be biblical. The Bible speaks to every area of life. No discipline of study may be thought of as neutral. Van Til observes:

The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication. It tells us not only of the Christ and his work, but it also tells us who God is and where the universe about us has come from.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Belief vs. Unbelief

Education (part 70)

Unbelief seeks to erase the biblical antithesis. This might be one of the most important lessons your students will learn. Education is either the process of maturation into the image of man or into the image of God. We must teach them the importance of asking ultimate questions: "What does this mean?"; "How does this fit with my Christian understanding of other facts?"; "How do other worldviews explain these facts?" Belief and unbelief are mutually exclusive—neither allows any room for the other. Again, Dr. Van Til hits the nail on the head:

And anyone who comes to grips with it at all will sense the impossibility of thinking of Christian education as being ninety or sixty of thirty or ten percent like other education, the only difference being that Christian education adds certain elements or emphasizes certain elements that secular education neglects. When viewed from this absolute standpoint Christian education is not even a fraction of one percent like public education. The different conceptions of God that underlie the two theories cover every point on the whole front and cover them before and behind, without and within.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Evaluating Worldviews

Education (part 69)

Our objective in educating children is to provide them with the tools of learning and analysis. The issues of ultimate authority and presuppositions must be engrained in them. They must come to see the radical antithesis between believer and unbeliever in every aspect of life: light/dark, good/evil, sheep/goats, wheat/chaff, saved/lost, truth/lies, covenant-keepers/covenant-breakers, life/death, heaven/hell. Dr. Van Til observed:

All of us must stand together as one man. In this day when boundaries between the believer and the unbeliever are so generally wiped away we should seek to mark those boundaries anew and mark them well. We should seek to mark these boundaries not with chalk that disappears with the first rainstorm that comes, but we should try to mark these boundaries with indelible ink on the hearts of those who believe.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Fact Don’t “Speak for Themselves”

Education (part 68)

We all have presuppositions. Ultimately, all problems are epistemological and ethical. All men have a basic set of religious faith-assumptions or presuppositions that govern their understanding and interpretation of all things. This is the foundational level where we want our students to think. If we think of our core beliefs as being at the center of a web of beliefs—like a spider web—those at the center are the most essential. It is from thee core presuppostions that we will interpret all the facts that come our way. Dr. Van Til noted: "There has been thought that religion is a condiment that may be added to the otherwise neutral territories of life," but "neutrality" is a myth.

The facts don't speak for themselves. All facts are interpreted facts. The unbeliever defines man as central and as the ultimate reference point for every fact in the universe. As Christians, we understand that life is God-centered and we therefore seek to understand and interpret all things in terms of the purpose God has given in His Word. The ultimate goal is to have students reach a comprehensive and consistent interpretation of the facts from a distinctively Christian point of view. Teachers must provide the Christian framework for students. Do not fall into the false notion, popular in our day, that each student must find his own set of values. The teacher—the Christian teacher—is teaching students to think like Christians!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Christian Civilization

Education (part 67)

If we are to have a truly Christian civilization, it is essential that we have a self-consciously Christian education at every level and in every field of study. Dr. Clarence Carson, wrote:

Some years back, I received a call from a young man who asked me to speak to a group of students. What he wanted me to do was to restrict myself to economic matters, if I would, he said. Specifically, he wanted me to leave God out of it, though he must have put it more circumspectly than that. It seems that his group was composed of what he called "Thomists and Randians," and the religious issue would surely sunder them. I sent my condolences but declined the invitation. One suspects that the young man supposes that God is like a domestic pet, a cat, say, which one trots out to show cat fanciers, but when guests arrive who are allergic to cats is put away out of sight until they leave. It is not that way at all. God is not an addendum to economics; He is not scrollwork around the edges. Without God, the belief in economics is idolatry. . . .God is my premise and my conclusion. The first words of Genesis put the matter clearly: "In the beginning, God. . . ." And as the book of Revelation moves to its conclusion, there are these words, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." This is no God to be trotted out for god fanciers. He is God, the ground of all being. How could I speak and leave God out?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Inculcating Worldviews

Education (part 66)

Parents represent God, and schools represent parents. God is (or should be) the environment of the child—constant and total. As the church equips the saints for service, so too, parents and their agents must equip their children for service in the kingdom of God. A comprehensive and unified Christian view of life is what God requires of parents and their agents. Parents are responsible for the kind of worldview their children are taught and for the kind of instruction they receive in specific subjects. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein; then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8).

It is not enough to believe that the education of the home, the church and the school must be Christian. It is one thing to have a general belief concerning how things should be, it's another matter altogether to be able to articulate that belief and able to persuade others of its necessity as well. Professor Dennis Johnson observes:

We hope that more and more Christians are realizing that there is in fact no neutral ground, in education or anywhere else, and that nothing can be taught apart from some religious presupposition. Certainly, some parents place their children in Christian schools in hopes of avoiding drugs, sex, violence, disease, etc. The purpose for the Christian school is not to facilitate flight from the surface symptoms, but to counter act the source of that infection.

Only a school that is self-consciously Christian is equipped to assist parents in meeting their responsibility to provide a moral and academically competent education for their children. We must provide the hothouse that prepares students for the harsh warfare of a world that is hostile toward God. We must understand the strategic importance of the educational establishment in the re-paganization of our culture. Schools are essential in the transmission of a culture's worldview. A worldview is exactly what a child is given in school.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Power to Change the Land

Education (part 65)

Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament closes with this promise and this warning:

Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:4-6

Malachi tells us this turning of the hearts of fathers to their children will prevent the coming of the Messiah from being a woe rather than a blessing to men. This revival of family faithfulness alone prevents Him from coming to "smite the land with a curse."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Political Polytheism for Christians

Can we really expect politicians to honor the Lord Jesus Christ? Does Jesus settle for the idea that He is Lord over every area of life except politics—every knee shall bow except for the politicians? Jesus is King over all creation, including Washington D.C. He is King of kings! He rules over the rulers and they owe Him allegiance. "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 1:5). Why did the early church get into trouble? "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king―Jesus. And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things" (Acts 17:6-8). What rules does Jesus use to rule with? The law of God. All are subject to the King and His rules.

By what standard will the nations be judged by God?

Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. "For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God." ―Leviticus 18:24-30